News story: Dstl-style sensors track Santa's Christmas Eve Deliveries


War Hero
He’s made his list, he’s checked it twice, he already knows who’s naughty and nice. Santa Claus is coming to town – and you can follow him every snow-crunching step of the way.

Using similar sensors to those used by our Dstl scientists to track the Re-entry Sail Satellites in the Daedalus Experiment the operators at NORAD (the North American Aerospace Defense Command) kindly dedicate 24 December to tracking Father Christmas as he darts from chimney to chimney, country to country, and continent to continent, delivering gifts while voraciously consuming sweetmeats.

The program originated before the actual formation of NORAD, as an annual event on 24 December 1955. According to legend, a Sears department store placed an advertisement in a Colorado Springs, Colorado, newspaper which told children that they could place a call to Santa Claus and included the number ME 2-6681. A call allegedly came through to Colorado Springs’ Continental Air Defense Command (CONAD) Center as one digit was misprinted. In some versions of the story, the calls were coming in to the “red telephone” hotline that connected CONAD directly to command authorities at the Strategic Air Command. Harry Shoup took the first call from a young boy wanting to talk to Santa in good humour, and so a Christmas tradition was born.

A member of the space team at Dstl said:

If Christmas Eve is a clear night, you might be able to see Santa. For absolute, scientific proof, we might use our Dstl sensors, but just like everyone else, for one night of the year, we prefer to believe in the magic of Christmas.

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