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The Art of Tracking Santa

NORAD trackers

You'd think it'd be easy to spot a big guy in a red coat with a herd of reindeer in the sky, but it takes a team of highly trained specialists

While tracking Santa is technically a science, the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) makes it seem like more of an art.

Since 1955, NORAD has been in the business of monitoring Santa’s whereabouts on Christmas Eve. Using a radar system called the North Warning System, 47 radar installations are strung across the northern border of North America, and starting tomorrow, there will be continuous monitoring for indications that Santa Claus has begun his journey from the North Pole.

When he hits the sky, satellites positioned in geo-synchronous orbit at 22,300 miles from the Earth’s surface equipped with infrared sensors will alert the top brass at NORAD. Rudolph’s red nose, which also emits an infrared signature, will send an additional signal to NORAD that the A-list Christmas team has taken flight.

The Santa Cam network, with high-tech, high-speed digital cameras, will also be pre-positioned at locations around the world, capturing images and videos of Santa and his reindeer.

And finally, Canadian NORAD fighter pilots flying the CF-18 intercept will greet Santa and his team as they enter North America.

In addition to tracking Santa this year on the NORAD Tracks Santa homepage, tech-savvy kids can also pinpoint his location in the sky on Google Earth.

When NORAD first started tracking Santa in the 1950s, his progress was best monitored via radio, a telephone hotline and through phonograph records and television. The current Internet system has been in place since 1997. Updates can be expected on the NORAD website hourly beginning Christmas Eve.

The tradition of Santa Tracking began after a department store in Colorado Springs misprinted Santa’s telephone number, so instead of calling the North Pole, kids accidentally reached a Colonel at the United States’ then-Aerospace Defense Command. He quickly realized what happened and had his staff update the kids on Santa’s progress.

When not on the lookout for jolly St. Nick, NORAD is responsible for the aerospace and maritime defense of the United States and Canada, providing warning of impending missile and air attacks in North America. And, of course, NORAD is always on the lookout for errant sleigh bells and gift-wrapping paraphernalia.

Will your kids be watching for Santa Claus in the sky this Christmas Eve?

Image: Wikipedia

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