Tracking Santa, with the Help of NORAD

Tracking Santa, with the Help of NORAD

Since 1955 NORAD (and its predecessor CONAD) has tracked Santa’s each Christmas Eve and has answered questions for boys and girls about his progress. NORAD’s Santa tracking service uses interactive maps updated every few minutes at As Santa stops in each location, you can click an icon to learn more about that part of the world. There is also a 3D option using Google Earth. Moreover, there are links to update clips being posted on YouTube.

And you can also call NORAD and speak to someone there at 1-877-Hi-NORAD (1-877-446-6723) or e-mail the staff at noradtrackssanta [at] gmail [dot] com and get a return e-mail listing Santa’s most recent location. There are now Facebook and Twitter options as well, along with updates that can be sent directly to your mobile phone.

According to the current update (as of this writing):

NORAD has confirmed that Santa and his fully-loaded, reindeer-powered sleigh took off from the North Pole and soared into the arctic sky at 6:00 a.m. EST (5:00 a.m. CST, 4:00 a.m. MST, 3:00 a.m. PST). NORAD radar is tracking Rudolph’s bright red nose, and satellite imagery is providing minute-by-minute coverage of Santa’s location.

Here’s how NORAD does it:

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 Christmas Eve, 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, we use our second detection system. 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 allow our satellites to detect Rudolph and Santa.

The third tracking system is the Santa Cam network. We began using it in 1998, which is the year we put our 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 on Christmas Eve. 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 intercept and welcome Santa to North America. In the United States, American NORAD fighter pilots in either the F-15 or the F-16 get the thrill of flying alongside Santa and his famous reindeer: Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blitzen and, of course, Rudolph.

There is also a list of FAQs including technical data on Santa’s sleigh, intel regarding his girth, and the following handy fact:

How can Santa travel the world within 24 hours?
NORAD intelligence reports indicate that Santa does not experience time the way we do. His Christmas Eve trip seems to take 24 hours to us, but to Santa it might last days, weeks or even months. Santa would not want to rush the important job of delivering presents to children and spreading Christmas to everyone, so the only logical conclusion is that Santa somehow functions within his own time-space continuum.

And, perhaps most importantly for any of us with excited little ones:

When will Santa arrive at my house?
NORAD tracks Santa, but only Santa knows his route. So we cannot predict where and when he will arrive at your house. But we do know from history that it appears he arrives only when children are asleep! In most countries, it seems Santa arrives between 9:00 p.m. and midnight on Christmas Eve. If children are still awake when Santa arrives, he moves on to other houses. He returns later…but only when the children are asleep!

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Kenneth Anderson

Unless Jack Bauer has intercepted Santa first!  But Jack is on the naughty list …!


You never came back to UDI?!


[…] related news, I would like to note that the NORAD Santa tracking station got it right and … Santa came! Categories: […]

Itzchak Kornfeld
Itzchak Kornfeld

25.12, according to the NORADSANTA website Santa made all of his deliveries unimpeded by missiles, flying saucers or Norad aircraft.  He, guided by Rudolph, has returned to the North Pole safe and sound but complaining of a back ache.