The Naval Postgraduate School & The U.S. Department of Homeland Security

Where in the World is Santa? NORAD's Santa-Tracking Technology

 

 

 

"The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) is a United States and Canada bi-national organization charged with the missions of aerospace warning, aerospace control, and maritime warning for North America." NORAD ensures air sovereignty and defense over the U.S. and Canada. NORAD is also the trusted source for information on Santa's whereabouts during his journey.

NORAD is able to provide this information through powerful radar technology in a system of 47 installations running across Canada's North and Alaska. The radar provides to-the-second information on when Santa leaves his North Pole Headquarters. Once Santa leaves HQ, NORAD's satellites 22,300 miles above Earth use infrared sensors (heat-sensing technology) to detect the infrared signature of Rudolph's bright red nose. An hour before Santa enters a nation, NORAD activates pre-positioned high-speed cameras in the area, capturing both video and still images of Santa and his reindeer. These images are immediately available on the NORAD Santa tracking site for people to see worldwide. Because NORAD has been dedicated to providing this information to the world since 1955, Santa allows a NORAD fighter jet escort in Canada and the United States. The thrill these jet fighter pilots receive from flying along Santa and the reindeer - Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blitzen and Rudolph - is unparalleled. "More than 1,250 Canadian and American uniformed personnel and DOD civilians volunteer their time [to make this possible]."

Some things to remember about Santa's journey and distribution process include:

  1. Santa will only enter a house when the children are asleep
  2. Santa usually starts his route at the International Date Line in the Pacific Ocean and travels west (but his travel can be affected by weather!)
  3. Santa visits all homes where children believe in him, whether their home is in the U.S., Afghanistan, Denmark, or Mali
  4. "NORAD intelligence reports indicate that Santa does not experience time the way we do. […] Santa somehow functions within his own time-space continuum." Meaning that to Santa, delivering presents around the world in 24 hours in no big deal.

If you would like to talk to someone at NORAD to find out where Santa is located, "beginning at 3:00a.m. MST on December 24th, you may call 1 877 HI-NORAD (1 877 446-6723). Operators will be available until 3:00a.m. on Dec. 25th."

NORAD takes great joy in providing this service. Included on www.noradsanta.org are various frequently asked questions, games, movies, music, a brief history of Santa tracking, and the technical specifications of Santa's legendary sleigh.

This year, Google has decided to track Santa's journey as well. The Google Santa Tracker takes the form of a virtual advent calendar, beginning on December 1 and ending with Santa's arrival on December 24th. Each day, the calendar will make a new game available to play. On Christmas Eve, Google Maps Santa Tracker will provide a preview of Santa's dashboard (leaked by an indiscreet developer elf) as he flies around the world making his special deliveries to the kind and generous. This interactive dashboard will allow you to watch Santa's progress and learn more about his stops along the way!