When Santa starts his journey on Christmas Eve, NORAD at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs will be watching.NORAD and its predecessor, the Continental Air Defense Command (CONAD) started tracking Santa's flight more than 50 years ago.
How the tradition started
The tradition began in 1955 after a Colorado Springs-based Sears Roebuck & Co. advertisement for children to call Santa misprinted the telephone number. Instead of reaching Santa, the phone number put kids through to the CONAD Commander-in-Chief's operations "hot line." The Director of Operations at the time, Colonel Harry Shoup, had his staff check the radar for indications of Santa making his way south from the North Pole. Children who called were given updates on his location, and a tradition was born.In 1958, the governments of Canada and the United States created a bi-national air defense command for North America called the North American Aerospace Defense Command, also known as NORAD, which then took on the tradition of tracking Santa.Since that time, NORAD men, women, family and friends have selflessly volunteered their time to personally respond to Christmas Eve phone calls and e-mails from children. In addition, NORAD now tracks Santa using the Internet. Last year, millions of people who wanted to know Santa's whereabouts visited the NORAD Tracks Santa Web site.
How NORAD Tracks Santa
NORAD uses four high-tech systems to track Santa radar, satellites, Santa Cams and fighter jets.Tracking Santa starts with the NORAD radar system called the North Warning System. This powerful radar system consists of 47 installations strung across the northern border of North America. On Christmas Eve, NORAD monitors the radar systems continuously for indications that Santa Claus has left the North Pole.The moment that radar indicates Santa has lifted off, NORAD uses its second detection system. Satellites positioned in geo-synchronous orbit at 22,300 miles from the Earths surface are equipped with infrared sensors, which enable them to detect heat. Amazingly, Rudolph's bright red nose gives off an infrared signature, which allow NORAD's satellites to detect Rudolph and Santa.The third tracking system is the Santa Cam network. NORAD began using it in 1998, which is the year they put our Santa Tracking program on the internet. Santa Cams are ultra-cool, high-tech, high-speed digital cameras that are pre-positioned at many locations around the world. NORAD only uses these cameras once a year on Christmas Eve. The cameras capture images and videos of Santa and his reindeer as they make their journey around the world.The fourth system is made up of fighter jets. Canadian NORAD fighter pilots flying the CF-18 intercept and welcome Santa to North America. In the United States, American NORAD fighter pilots in either the F-15 or the F-16 get the thrill of flying alongside Santa and his famous reindeer: Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blitzen and, of course, Rudolph.
When to follow Santa
The NORAD Tracks Santa Operations Center (NTSOC) opens on December 24th at 6:00 a.m. EST, 4:00 a.m. MST and will run until 5:00 a.m. EST, 3:00 a.m. MST on December 25, Christmas Day!To get Santa updates, visit the NORAD tracks Santa Web site, call 1 (877) HI NORAD / 1 (877) 446-6723 or Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
What route does Santa take?
NORAD says Santa usually starts at the International Date Line in the Pacific Ocean and travels west. So, historically, Santa visits the South Pacific first, then New Zealand and Australia. After that, he shoots up to Japan, over to Asia, across to Africa, then onto Western Europe, Canada, the United States, Mexico and Central and South America. But keep in mind, Santas route can be affected by weather, so its really unpredictable. NORAD coordinates with Santas Elf launch staff to confirm his launch time, but from that point on, Santa calls the shots.Want to learn more about Santa's journey? Visit NORAD's Web site.