Children and parents across the world can see just how far Santa and his reindeer are from their homes, thanks to a “Santa Tracker” that follows his route around the globe.
Santa tracker – a collaboration between Google and the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) – shows live footage of the sleigh passing landmarks including Big Ben, the Empire State Building and, of course, his grotto in the North Pole.
The tracker uses radar, satellites, Santa Cams and fighter jets to follow his sleigh, and can be seen online on Google Earth.
Santa can also been seen on the Google Maps app on smart phones by typing in “Santa” or on the NORAD Santa Site.
NORAD Santa site explains: “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 allows our satellites to detect Rudolph and Santa.”
NORAD has been tracking Santa’s journey for more than 50 years.
In 1955, a Colorado Springs newspaper advert invited children to talk to Santa on a hotline.
But the number had a typo, and dozens of children mistakenly dialed the Continental Aerospace Defense Command in Colorado Springs, the predecessor to NORAD.
The officers on duty sprang into action and began passing along reports on Santa’s progress – and the tradition was born.
It is going strong, with a Denver-based NORAD crew answering 80,000 phone calls and 7,000 emails on Christmas Eve last year.
The NORAD Tracks Santa website has had more than 2.2 million unique visitors this year, compared with 2 million last year, according to the Associated Press.
More than 1,200 volunteers will answer calls in shifts until 3:00 a.m. Mountain Time on December 25.
They check big-screen computer monitors to pass along information to the children who call in.
“It’s just so precious to hear the little sigh or (only) breathing on the other end, and you realize how nervous they are,” Joyce Creech, NORAD’s project leader, told the Associated Press.
“But we’ve had really heart-wrenching stories as well,” she said.
“<<Can you ask Santa to heal my brother of cancer?>> Or, <<Can I get a new pair of shoes? I don’t have any.>>”
This year, they have added a further 20 phones this year, bringing the total to 120, and four more laptops, totaling at 23.
Santa tracker now even has a Twitter account, a Facebook page, a Youtube channel and apps for mobile phones, along with a website, and the phone line, 877-HI NORAD.