Every year, millions of children take to their computers, tablets and smartphones to track the world’s greatest traveler — Santa Claus. For 66 years, NORAD has helped children of all ages track Santa on his journey around the world.

Santa Tracker became a Christmas Eve tradition in 1955 when a child mistakenly called a military command center. A newspaper ad had invited kids to call Santa but accidentally printed the number for the CONAD Operations Center.

NORAD says its Director of Operations at the time, Colonel Harry Shoup, answered the phone and told his staff to see if Santa had made his way south from the North Pole.

“We’re the only organization that has the technology, the qualifications, and the people to do it,” NORAD said. “And, we love it! NORAD is honored to be Santa’s official tracker!”

Kids can check on Santa’s progress around the world on December 24 by calling 1-877-HI-NORAD.

NORAD Tracks Santa also has a free mobile app. Your child can countdown to the big day, play mobile games, and listen to holiday music. Check out Google Play and the Apple Store for more information.

Parents can also surprise their child with a free personalized phone call from Santa

What does NORAD stand for?

NORAD stands for North American Aerospace Defense Command.

NORAD is a United States and Canada bi-national organization that uses radar and satellites to look out for man-made objects in the sky like aircraft, space vehicles or Santa!

How does NORAD track Santa?

NORAD says it all starts with a radar system called the North Warning System. The powerful radar system uses dozens of installations across Canada’s North and Alaska to look for signs of Santa Claus leaving the North Pole every holiday season.

NORAD also uses a number of satellites in geosynchronous orbit. That’s a fancy way of saying the satellite always stays over the same spot on Earth.

“The moment our radar tells us that Santa has lifted off, we begin to use the same satellites that we use in providing air warning of possible missile launches aimed at North America,” NORAD said.

According to NORAD. the satellites have infrared sensors, so they can see the heat that Rudolph’s nose gives off, just like the heat released when a rocket is launched.