30 Little-Known Facts About Santa’s Sleigh and How NORAD Tracks St. Nick
Have you ever wondered exactly how NORAD tracks Santa's flight around the world on Christmas Eve?
While Santa's annual delivery of toys to all the good little boys and girls worldwide is filled with Christmas magic, the North American Aerospace Defense Command relies on its modern technology to track Santa's flight around the globe. With its headquarters in Colorado Springs, NORAD has been tracking Santa since 1955.
How Does NORAD Track Santa?
According to the NORAD website, the North Warning System has 47 installations that are spread across northern Canada and Alaska. When the holiday season arrives, the radar is watched closely for any indication that Santa is leaving the North Pole. As soon as Santa lifts off, NORAD says it uses the same satellites they would use to provide air warnings of possible missile launches aimed at North America.
Heat-Detecting Satellites Are 22,300 Miles Above the Earth
The satellites used by NORAD are in what's called a geosynchronous orbit. That means they are always fixed at the same spot more than 22,000 miles above Earth. The satellites are equipped with infrared sensors which can detect the heat that is produced by a missile. In the same way, Rudolph's red nose gives off an infrared signature similar to a missile launch, which makes it very easy to detect.
Santa Receives Fighter Jet Escort
The final piece of the puzzle is the use of NORAD jet fighters that escort Santa to North America. A Canadian NORAD fighter pilot, in a CF-18, takes off out of Newfoundland and welcomes Santa to North America. Since Santa actually flies faster than a jet, the reindeer actually have to slow down for the escort. The radar, the satellites, and the fighter jets all work together to provide NORAD with an accurate account of Santa's whereabouts.