NORAD keeps track of Santa

Published 5:30 pm Thursday, December 23, 2010

When Santa Claus and his tiny reindeer leave the North Pole tonight, they will be tracked as the move around the world by the men and women of NORAD who are constantly watching the skies and waterways of the United States and Canada to keep them safe.

But on Christmas Eve, NORAD keeps its watchful eyes on Santa and his reindeer and sends reports back to little boys and girls to let them know that Santa is on his way.

Stacey Knott, NORAD Public Affairs Office, said that, based on the information gathered from more than 50 years of tracking Santa Claus, the jolly ol’ elf is alive and well in the hearts of children throughout the world.

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“We know from our observations that Santa’s sleigh is guided by a herd of flying reindeer,” Knott said. “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, which is made up of 47 installations strung across the border of North America.

On Christmas Eve, NORAD monitors the radar system continuously for indications that Santa has left the North Pole.

“As soon as we know that Santa’s sleigh has lifted off, our satellites are brought into action,” Knott said.

These satellites are positioned in orbit more than 22,000 miles from the earth. They are equipped with infrared sensors that can detect heat.

“Santa’s lead reindeer, Rudolph, has a bright red nose and it gives off in infrared signal,” Knott said. “Our satellites can keep up with Santa by the signal from Rudolph’s nose.”

When the Internet became so widely used, NORAD wanted children to be able to track Santa and his reindeer themselves. So, in 1998, NORAD put its Santa Tracking program on the Internet. You. can reach the tracking via

“Santa Cams are ultra-cool, high-tech, high-speed digital cameras that are pre-positioned at different locations around the world,” Knott said. “NORAD only uses these cameras once a year. The cameras capture the images and videos of Santa and his reindeer as they make their journey around the world.”

Then comes what might be the most exciting part of the long, around the world journey for Santa.

As Santa enters North America, Canadian NORAD fighter jet pilots intercept Santa and welcome him to North America.

“In the United States, American NORAD fighter pilots get the thrill of flying alongside Santa and his famous reindeer, Dasher, Dancer Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blitzen and the most famous reindeer of them all, Rudolph,” Knott said.

Because the world’s population is growing by leaps and bounds, already at nearly 7 billion people, it is most important that boys and girls are extra good so that Santa will take time to stop and grant their special Christmas wishes, Knott said and added that from all NORAD reports Santa Claus is planning many stops in Pike County because children here have been especially good this year.