Live: Here’s how to track Santa with your kids

FILE - In this Dec. 24, 2010 file photo, Air Force Lt. Col. David Hanson, of Chicago, takes a phone call from a child in Florida at the Santa Tracking Operations Center at Peterson Air Force Base near Colorado Springs, Colo. Santa is already piling up monster numbers on social networking sites this season, so the volunteer Santa-trackers at NORAD are bracing for tens of thousands of calls and emails when their operations center goes live on Christmas Eve. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski) (Ed Andrieski)

ROME, N.Y. (AP/Media General) – Santa Claus is coming to town and for the 61st year, you can track his journey with the North American Aerospace Defense Command’s Santa Tracker.

NORAD uses “satellites, high-powered radar, jet fighters and special Santa cameras to track Santa Claus as he makes his journey around the world.”

See where Santa is headed and how many gifts he’s delivered with the interactive map below.

HOW DOES NORAD TRACK SANTA?

A system of radar stations and satellites monitor all air traffic entering U.S. and Canadian airspace. All aircraft have a code to identify themselves. If an aircraft doesn’t have a code, NORAD can scramble jets to see who it is and what they’re doing, said Tech. Sgt. John Gordinier, an Alaska NORAD spokesman.

Luckily, Santa is good at keeping in touch with NORAD, Gordinier said.

“When he pops up, we call him Big Red One,” he said. “That’s his call sign.”

The nose on Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer is a tipoff. It gives off an infrared signature similar to a missile launch, Gordinier said.

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WHAT IS SANTA’S ROUTE?

On his mythical journey, Santa generally departs the North Pole, flies to the international date line over the Pacific Ocean, then begins deliveries in island nations. He then works his way west in the Northern and Southern hemispheres.

Alaska is usually his last stop before heading home, Gordinier said.

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HOW DO CHILDREN PARTICIPATE?

For 23 hours covering most of Christmas Eve, children can call a toll-free number, 877-446-6723 (877-Hi-NORAD) and speak to a live phone operator about Santa’s whereabouts.

They can also send an email to noradtracksanta@outlook.com.

NORAD has 157 telephone lines and hundreds of volunteers ready to answer calls.

NORAD also created a website, www.noradsanta.org, a Facebook page, www.facebook.com/noradsanta and a Twitter account @NoradSanta for the program.

The sites include games, movies and music. “Santacams” stream videos from various locations.

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HOW DID NORAD GET INVOLVED WITH TRACKING SANTA?

A 1955 newspaper advertisement for Sears Roebuck and Co. listed a phone number for “kiddies” to call Santa Claus but got it wrong.

The number was for a crisis phone at Air Operations Center at Continental Air Defense Command, NORAD’s predecessor, in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Air Force Col. Harry Shoup took a call from a child and thought he was being pranked. When he figured out he was talking to a little boy, he pretended he was Santa.

More children called. Shoop eventually instructed airmen answering the phone to offer Santa’s radar location as he crossed the globe. That sparked the tradition.

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