Econintersect: In a few hours, starting at 5 am EST (New York time zone) 24 December, the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) will start tracking Santa Claus on his annual journey around the earth. The advanced radar sytem used (North Warning System) has 47 installations strung across Canada's North and Alaska. The radar is supplemented by a global observation system used only on this day each year and a geo-synchronous orbit satallite system.
The Norad Tracks Santa Operations Center (NTSOC) is open only for 24 hours and shuts down operations at 5 am EST 25 December. To catch a status report report you must visit during the 24 hours that NTSOC is open. Click on image below to visit the report center during the 24 hours it is in operation:
Here is an excerpt from Scientific Computing which describes the systems in some detail:
NORAD starts tracking Santa using their advanced radar system called the North Warning System. This powerful radar system has 47 installations strung across Canada's North and Alaska. NORAD makes a point of checking the radar closely on Dec. 24 for indications that Santa has left the North Pole.
The moment the radar registers Santa's lift off, NORAD looks its second tracking system, the satellites, to continue tracking his flight. These satellites are located in a geo-synchronous orbit at 22,300 miles above the Earth, and have infrared sensors so they can detect heat. Since Rudolph's nose gives off an infrared signature, the satellites can detect Rudolph's bright red nose and follow Santa during flight.
The third tracking system is the SantaCam, a network of ultra-cool, high-tech, high-speed digital cameras that are pre-positioned at many places around the world. NORAD only uses these cameras once a year, on Dec. 24. The cameras are turned on about one hour before Santa enters a country then switched off after Santa and his reindeer are recorded. The network of cameras follows Santa and his reindeer on their journey around the world and the captured images are immediately downloaded to the NORAD tracking website for all to see!
- NORAD: How We Track Santa (Scientific Computing , 20 December 2013)
- NORAD tracking website (Norad Tracking Santa Center) Open 24 hours only, starting 5 AM EST 24 December.