The 2009 Santa Tracker Review: Your Guide To Tracking With NORAD Santa Tracker & Beyond
Merry Christmas! Christmas Eve, that is, and you know what that means. Santa Claus is coming to town! How long until he arrives? Can you spot him in flight? Yes, Virginia. There is a Santa Claus, and he can be tracked. Below, a round-up of Santa trackers.
NOTE: If you’re looking for the latest information on Santa tracking for the current year, see our Your Guide To Santa Trackers page.
Most of the ones below come from NORAD, the missile tracking people. They’ve been tracking Santa for more than 50 years, thanks to a phone number that was misprinted (and sadly, the man who answered that phone and kicked this entire thing off died earlier this year — though the tradition continues).
NORAD has developed a near monopoly on Santa tracking. Having written about the Santa Claus tracking space for several years, I found this year that alternative services that had existed now just seem to point to NORAD these days. NORAD does its thing through a partnership with Google that began formally in 2007.
The entire “suite” of NORAD’s tracking tools can be found at the NORAD Santa site, which is available in a variety of languages. Specific options are listed below, linking to the English-language instructions, along with a few alternatives that still exist out there. Need info for a different language? Start from the NORAD site’s home page.
NORAD’s Santa Cam Videos & Map
Using high speed photography, combined with fighter jets, satellites and radar to locate him, NORAD manages to capture Jolly St. Nick as he passes over landmarks in countries around the world.
On Christmas Eve, on the NORAD Santa’s main page, you’ll see a map like this:
Click on a gift to get information about a place that Father Christmas has visited. As for those video icons, click on one of those to see him captured in flight:
On the NORAD site, you’ll all the videos of Santa that have been posted so far here:
As the day progresses, more videos are added, usually a new one each hour. You’ll also find a collection of Santa Cam videos on the NORAD Tracks Santa YouTube channel.
Call Or Email For Santa’s Whereabouts
Despite advances in the internet, Santa tracking is backwards compatible with older technologies. You email NORAD or even call them for an update. Email has been active from before Christmas Eve.
The call center, shown above, opens at 5am Eastern time.
Both the email address and telephone number can be found here
Santa Tracking In 3D On Google Earth
No 3D glasses are necessary to spot Santa flying around a virtual representation of the planet. Just download Google Earth, then go to this page at NORAD Santa to download a file that will let you watch him flying within the program. Once installed, you should automatically be taken to his latest location, and you can also see where he’s been.
Don’t want to download the entire Google Earth program? That’s OK. There’s a plug-in you can use that Google says will let you see Santa right within your web browser. Get the plug-in, then go to that mapping page at NORAD Santa, and you’ll see where he’s at.
Track Santa On Your Mobile Phone
Want to track Santa while you’re on the move. There’s an app for that. Well, there’s a link you can get sent to your mobile phone that will bring up Santa in Google Maps. It works for a wide variety of smart phones (iPhone, Android, BlackBerry, Windows Mobile and Nokia phones were all supported last year).
Of course, there really are phone apps for tracking Santa. On the iPhone, just search for “santa tracker” to bring up a variety of them. Unlike last year, I didn’t find free ones. The Talus Santa Tracker, more info here, is only $1. I found it crashed a lot and wasn’t that impressive, though you can customize the naughty and nice list, which my kids got a kick out of.
There’s also the Earthscape tracker, more info here. It’s also $1. I found this pretty cool when I used it last year. The image above shows how it looked last year, giving you a little countdown in time to your location.
Android users, sorry. I found no Santa tracking apps in the Android market. But you can use the Google Maps tool.
Santa Claus On Twitter
Yes, Santa’s on Twitter. Actually, it’s NORAD tracking Santa and providing updates on Twitter. Above is an example from last year, showing you what to expect. You can follow him here.
Santa On Facebook
NORAD also provides Santa tracking for those on Facebook, though a Facebook fan page. Become a fan here and get updates flowing into your Facebook stream.
Looking for yet more Santa tracking tools? The Dallas/Fort Worth Airport is offering one, which I like because it has a cool looking radar screen. A screenshot is shown above.
The Today Show is also providing a Santa tracker plotted through Bing’s maps. You’ll find it here, and a screenshot is above. It’s pretty rudimentary. A Santa icon shows where he’s been. Click on Santa, and you get a image of him in flight — which to me, look very much like screenshots of images I’ve seen on the NORAD site in the past.
Time Shift Santa, Please!
I make the same plea to NORAD every year, and my wish never comes true. I’ll repeat it once again, in hopes it might happen for 2010.
My children, like many others, go to bed well before midnight on Christmas Eve. It’s great to get them tucked in by showing how Santa is getting close. But that means you need to show Santa flying around your area, not an area that’s several time zones away.
Please, let parents time shift. Let us tell you we’re in a particular location, and allow us to get an early glimpse of Santa approaching our area!