NORAD: How We Track Santa
North American Aerospace Defense Command (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 December 24, 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, the second detection system comes online. 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 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 the organization put the 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. 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 fighter jets intercept and welcome Santa to North America. In the United States, American NORAD fighter pilots in either the F-15, F-16 or the F-22 get the thrill of flying alongside Santa and his famous reindeer: Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blitzen and, of course, Rudolph.
NORAD Tracks Santa Operations Center
The NORAD Tracks Santa Operations Center (NTSOC) opens on December 24 at 5:00 a.m. EST (4:00 a.m. CST, 3:00 a.m. MST, and 2:00 a.m. PST) and remains open until 5:00am EST (4:00 a.m. CST, 3:00 a.m. MST, and 2:00 a.m. PST) on December 25.
Located at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, CO, the NTSOC receives up-to-the-minute status reports from NORAD radar, satellites and Santa cams. Official Santa trackers are standing by to update everyone on Santa’s location — call or e-mail the NORAD Tracks Santa Operations Center for Santa’s current location.
Call: 1 (877) HI NORAD / 1 (877) 446-6723; From Colorado Springs or overseas: 1 (719) 556-5211 (Cost may be incurred); Hearing Impaired should contact their service provider.