It takes some of the world’s most sophisticated technology to track Santa and his reindeer as they make their way around the world on Christmas Eve.
That just what NORAD – the North American Aerospace Defense Command – does each year, however, providing information to good girls and boys around the world on when they can expect Santa to arrive.
With 66 years of history, NORAD also has detailed intelligence on Santa in general. According to NORAD, the Santa’s sleigh was designed and built by K. Kringle and Elves, Inc. and it’s believed the first flight was Dec. 24, 343 A.D. It’s based – of course – in the North Pole and is 77 candy canes long, 40 candy canes wide and 55 candy canes heigh. Its weight at takeoff was 75,000 gumdrops, which includes 260 pounds of Santa Claus. It’s able to hold 60,000 tons of presents, all pulled by 9 reindeer fueled by hay, oats and carrots. Best of all is the description of its max speed – it’s faster than starlight, according to military experts.
NORAD starts tracking Santa at 5 a.m. CST on Dec. 24. You can call 1 877 HI-NORAD (1 877 446-6723) to talk directly to a NORAD staff member who will be able to tell you Santa’s exact location. Operators are available until midnight. You can also send an email to [email protected]. You can also track Santa on your mobile phone, through the official Windows 8 app online at https://www.noradsanta.org/en/
How NORAD tracks Santa
Tracking starts with the NORAD radar system called the North Warning System. This powerful radar system has 47 installations strung across Canada’s North and Alaska. NORAD makes a point of checking the radar closely for indications of Santa Claus leaving the North Pole every holiday season. The moment the radar tells us that Santa has lifted off, NORAD begins to use the same satellites that are used in providing air warning of possible missile launches aimed at North America.
NORAD’s satellites are located in a geo-synchronous orbit – that’s a cool phrase meaning that the satellite is always fixed over the same spot on the Earth – at 22,300 miles above the Earth. The satellites have infrared sensors, meaning they can see heat. When a rocket or missile is launched, a tremendous amount of heat is produced – enough for the satellites to see them. Rudolph’s nose gives off an infrared signature similar to a missile launch. The satellites detect Rudolph’s bright red nose with no problem, according to NORAD.
The last system used by NORAD is the jet fighter. Canadian NORAD fighter pilots, flying the CF-18, take off out of Newfoundland and welcome Santa to North America. Then at numerous locations in Canada other CF-18 fighter pilots escort Santa. While in the United States, American NORAD fighter pilots in either the F-15s, F16s or F-22s get the thrill of flying with Santa and the famous Reindeer – Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blitzen and Rudolph. Even though Santa flies faster than any jet fighter (Santa actually slows down for us to escort him), all of these systems together provide NORAD with a good continuous picture of his whereabouts.
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