Norad Santa-tracker meets Google Earth

image_about_santa.jpgNoradâ''the North American Aerospace Defense Commandâ''has been tracking Santa since 1955, when a Sears advertisement offering a talk-to-Santa hotline accidentally gave a the number of the Continental Air Defense Command, Noradâ''s predecessor. Today, the Norad web site explains, Norad follows Santaâ''s journey around the world using radar, infrared sensors on satellites that zero in on Rudolphâ''s nose, special â''Santa-Cams,â'' and fighter pilots in F-15 and F-16 jets. Norad used to make this information available via phone, now itâ''s on the web. Norad tracks Santa in six languages, German, English, Spanish, French, Italian, and Japanese.

Itâ''s a great tool, Iâ''ve used it for the past few years; pointing out Santaâ''s imminent approach helps encourage excited children to get to bed early, so they can make sure theyâ''re asleep before Santa starts getting close. In previous years, the Santa tracker looked much like the live route maps on international airline flights, a map of the world overlaid with a simple path and icons.

This year, however, Norad Santa-tracker has been integrated with Google Earth, so it will likely be a lot flashier. I had yet to download Google Earth (I hadnâ''t realized the Mac version was available), but took Noradâ''s advice and did so today, so Iâ''ll be ready to track Santa on Christmas Eve. Thereâ''s also a widget to add to an iGoogle page.

Iâ''d love to tell you what I think of the latest version of Santa-tracker, but this is one application you canâ''t test ahead of time; Norad doesnâ''t start sleigh-hunting until 2 a.m. Mountain Time on Christmas Eve.

Norad does let you send a letter to Santa while youâ''re waiting. Santa replied to my email quickly, and confirmed that Iâ''m on the â''Niceâ'' list. He also said that fog is predicted for Christmas Eve, so Rudolph would likely be flying and that he just got a new sleigh with all the latest upgrades. Santa sounds like a classic early adopter.

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