NORAD’s preparations for tracking Santa’s flight path over North America this year are in place. You can receive updates from the North Pole and discover new surprises in the Kids’ Countdown Village.
Santa’s elves have been busier than usual this year preparing. Visit Santa’s Village to see what’s been going on, and join in on the fun at www.noradsanta.org.
This year, there’s also a new iOS NORAD Tracks Santa App by Visionbox, available for free download at the Apple App Store.
NORAD Tracks Santa is the official mobile app of the NORAD Tracks Santa program. Watch the days count down to Santa’s flight, follow Santa’s progress on December 24, play “Elf Toss” to help Santa’s elves deliver presents, and learn about NORAD and its mission.
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—a powerful radar system consisting of 47 installations strung across the northern border of North America. On December 24th, NORAD monitors the radar systems continuously for indications that Santa Claus has left the North Pole.
The moment radar indicates Santa has lifted off, NORAD switches to its second detection system. Satellites positioned in geo-synchronous orbit at 22,300 miles from the Earth’s surface are equipped with infrared sensors which enable them to detect heat. Amazingly, Rudolph’s bright red nose gives off an infrared signature, which allows the NORAD satellites to detect Rudolph and Santa.
The third tracking system is NORAD’s Santa Cam network, which was first used in 1998, the year NORAD first put its 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 to 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 aircraft 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.
In addition to tracking Santa on the NORAD Tracks Santa homepage, you can also track his flight in Google Earth.
This Christmas Eve, you can also join NORAD to track Santa’s flight from your smartphone. On December 24th, open Google Maps for mobile and do a search for “Santa” to see his latest location
For more than 50 years, NORAD and its predecessor, the Continental Air Defense Command (CONAD) have tracked Santa’s flight.
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-Chiefs operations “hotline.” 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. NORAD provides advanced warning of impending missile and air attacks against its member nations, safeguards the air sovereignty of North America, and maintains airborne forces for defense against attack.
NORAD’s mission has evolved over the years. The most recent “evolution” coming as a result of the tragic events of September 11, 2001. NORAD now coordinates closely with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and NAV CANADA, Canada’s equivalent to America’s FAA, to monitor the airspace within Canada and the United States. In addition, the command also conducts maritime monitoring.
The men and women of NORAD are constantly watching the skies and waterways of the United States and Canada to keep us safe.
Tracking Santa in Google Earth
In 2007, Google became NORAD’s official Santa Tracking technology partner. In addition to tracking Santa in Google Earth, they added a Google Maps tracker and integrated YouTube videos into the journey as well, and now had Santa on the map and on “Santa Cam” arriving in several different locations around the world, with commentary in six different languages. Elf McClendon says the heavy traffic—several millions of users—put Google’s infrastructure to the test, but with some heroic work by Google’s system reliability engineers, the Santa Tracker worked continuously.
To use the Google Earth Plug-in, download it first if you don’t have it, than go to www.noradsanta.org and click on the link “Track Santa in Google Earth.”
You can also find Santa on Google Map. There are also links to Santa Cam videos, and gift icon links to linformation about each city.
To follow Santa with your, phone, bring up Google Maps for mobile and search for “santa” on your phone’s browser.
And if your family has a General Motors vehicle equipped with OnStar, you can track Santa Claus on Christmas Eve by pushing the OnStar button. From 7 a.m. Christmas Eve through 5 a.m. Christmas Day, OnStar operators will be collaborating with NORAD to inform vehicle occupants of Santa’s location.