For more than 50 years, NORAD and its predecessor, the Continental Air Defense Command (CONAD) have tracked Santa’s flight.
According to NORAD, it 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. On Dec. 24, 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, satellites positioned in geo-synchronous orbit pick up his trail. Satellites are able to detect infrared heat. Amazingly, Rudolph’s bright red nose gives off an infrared signature.
The third tracking system is the Santa cam network. NORAD began using it in 1998, which is the year it put our Santa Tracking program on the internet.
The fourth system is made up of fighter jets. Canadian NORAD fighter pilots flying the CF-18 intercept and welcome Santa to North America.
Once data is collected on Dec. 24, it is plotted on a map so that families all over the world can also follow Santa.
The tradition started in 1955 after an advertisement for Sears Roebuck & Co. misprinted a telephone number for a special "Santa hotline." Instead of reaching Kris Kringle, the number put kids through to the Continental Air Defense Command (CONAD) Commander-in-Chief’s operations, according to a description on the NORAD Tracks Santa Facebook page, which has more than one million "Likes."