Page last updated at 08:10 GMT, Thursday, 24 December 2009

Military tracks Santa's Christmas Eve journey


Brian McClendon, engineering director for Google Earth and Google Maps, on tracking Santa. Video courtesy of Google and Norad.

This year children will have a range of hi-tech options when it comes to following the progress of Santa on Christmas Eve.

The North American Aerospace Defense Command (Norad) has been tracking Santa for over 50 years.

Children can follow his progress via its website or on Twitter, Facebook or via Google Maps or Google Earth.

It is becoming the hi-tech equivalent of reading The Night Before Christmas to excited children on Christmas Eve.

Father Christmas's journey starts at 1100GMT on 24 December and children can track his progress as he passes 24 "Santa cams" around the world.

This year they can also check out Santa's village and see how well the elves are getting on with making presents.

Norad volunteers are on hand on Christmas Eve to answer e-mails about Father Christmas's journey at

Norad is a military organisation that is responsible for the aerospace and maritime defence of the US and Canada.

The tradition of tracking Father Christmas goes back to a misprint in a Colorado newspaper advertisement in 1955.

The hotline to Santa promised by the paper actually connected to what was known then as the Continental Air Defense Command (Conad).

As more phone calls came in, the commander on the other end of the phone started to pretend he was Santa and the tradition continued in 1958 when Conad became Norad.

Last year volunteers received 75,000 phone calls and about 6,000 e-mails from 200 countries.

The system works, according to Norad, because Rudolph the reindeer's famous nose gives off an infrared signature similar to a missile launch.

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