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NORAD is tracking Santa; you can too

December 17, 2018 - 2:32 pm

Who are you going to call when you’ve just got to know the answer to the most important question there is on Christmas Eve? (When will Santa be here?)

NORAD, of course.

The North American Aerospace Defense Command has been tracking Santa’s movements on Dec. 24 for 63 years.

And, it all started as the result of a typo in a newspaper. A young boy saw an ad featuring a photo of Santa Claus on Christmas Eve, 1955 that read in part “Hey Kiddies, Call Me Direct and be sure to dial the correct number.”

New York National Guard

The number printed in the ad actually belonged to NORAD’s precursor, CONAD, but the youngster didn’t care about that. He simply wanted to know where Santa was.

“He believed he was calling Santa Claus after seeing a promotion in a local newspaper,” said Capt. Cameron Hillier, a public affairs officer for NORAD and USNORTHCOM.

Air Force Col. Harry Shoup was the commander on duty that night

“He was pretty quick to realize that a mistake had been made,” said Hiller. “He was also pretty quick on his feet and assured the boy that NORAD guaranteed Santa a safe journey from the North Pole on his watch.”

That phone call began the happy holiday tradition of tracking Santa at NORAD, which monitors aerospace activity over both the United States and Canada.

You can track Santa's progress on NORAD’S official tracking page.

Beginning at 12:01 a.m. MT Dec. 24, 2:01 a.m. ET, NORAD’s Santa Cam’s will show travel videos of the Jolly Old Elf. And, at 4 a.m. MT, 6 a.m. ET, you can call a live phone operator at 1-877-HI-NORAD to learn where Santa is. Some 1,500 people will be standing by to take calls and provide live updates. In 2017, more than 126,000 calls were answered.

“We stand to surpass that this year,” he said.

You can also ask Alexa where Santa is if you have the Amazon virtual assistant.

NORAD on Facebook.

NORAD on Twitter.

NORAD on YouTube.

Hillier said its serious business at NORAD 24/7/365.

“The things we do 365 are applied Dec. 24 as far as tracking Santa goes,” he said. “Defending the homeland is our first priority. But, on the 24th, we have the welcome opportunity to participate in this tradition.”

“Starting from the North Pole, we have radars that stretch along Alaska and Canada,” Hillier explained. “When Santa departs his workshop, that’s the first thing we pick up. We monitor his activity until he goes over the Pacific and towards the eastern hemisphere.”

Once Santa moves out of radar range, NORAD transitions to satellites orbiting high above the earth to track his movements, said Hillier.

“From their position, we are able to monitor his movements on a global basis,” he said. “On a day-to-day basis, these satellites are used to monitor missile activity around the world and to determine if there is a threat to Canada and the U.S.”

Those satellites have infrared sensors, which means they can spot a certain reindeer’s shiny red nose, Hillier said.

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