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The Earth’s axis of rotation – and hence the position of the North Pole – was commonly believed to be fixed (relative to the surface of the Earth) until, in the 18th century, the mathematician Leonhard Euler predicted that the axis might “wobble” slightly. Around the beginning of the 20th century astronomers noticed a small apparent “variation of latitude,” as determined for a fixed point on Earth from the observation of stars. Part of this variation could be attributed to a wandering of the Pole across the Earth’s surface, by a range of a few meters. The wandering has several periodic components and an irregular component. The component with a period of about 435 days is identified with the 8 month wandering predicted by Euler and is now called the Chandler wobble after its discoverer. The exact point of intersection of the Earth’s axis and the Earth’s surface, at any given moment, is called the “instantaneous pole”, but because of the “wobble” this cannot be used as a definition of a fixed North Pole (or South Pole) when meter-scale precision is required.It is desirable to tie the system of Earth coordinates (latitude, longitude, and elevations or orography) to fixed landforms. Of course, given plate tectonics and isostasy, there is no system in which all geographic features are fixed. Yet the International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service and the International Astronomical Union have defined a framework called the International Terrestrial Reference System.
According to Tradition
According to a tradition that can be traced to the 1820s, Santa Claus lives at the North Pole, with a large number of magical elves, and at least eight or nine flying reindeer. Since the 20th century (popularized by the 1934 song Santa Claus Is Coming to Town), Santa Claus is also said to make a list of children throughout the world, categorizing them according to their behavior (“naughty” or “nice”) and that he delivers presents, including toys, candy, and other gifts to all of the good boys and girls in the world, and sometimes coal to the naughty children, on the single night of Christmas Eve. He accomplishes this feat with the aid of the elves who make the toys in the workshop and the reindeer who pull his sleigh.
Tracking Santa Leaving the North Pole
Over the years there have been a number of websites created by various organizations to track Santa Claus. Some, such as the NORAD Tracks Santa Program, the Airservices Australia Tracks Santa Project, the Santa Update Project, and the MSNBC and Bing Maps Platform Tracks Santa Project have endured. Others, such as the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport’s Tracks Santa Project, the Santa Retro Radar – Lehigh Valley Project, and the NASA Tracks Santa Project, have fallen by the wayside into the “dustbin of history.” One, the GLONASS Tracks Father Frost Project is rapidly capturing the underserved Russian language speaking “Santa Tracking” or “Winter Holiday Wizard” watching market segment.
In 1955, a Sears Roebuck store in Colorado Springs, Colorado, gave children a number to call a “Santa hotline”. The number was mistyped and children called the Continental Air Defense Command (CONAD) on Christmas Eve instead. The Director of Operations, Colonel Harry Shoup, received the first call for Santa and responded by telling children that there were signs on the radar that Santa was indeed heading south from the North Pole. In 1958, Canada and the United States jointly created the North American Air Defense Command (NORAD) and together tracked Santa Claus for children of North America that year and ever since. This tracking can now be done via the Internet and NORAD’s website.
The NORAD Tracks Santa website from 1998 thru 2005 showed that as Santa approached Newfoundland in Canada, a flight of Canadian Air Force fighters (CF-18 Hornets as of 2005) had a rendezvous with Santa to escort him with an honor guard and ensure that he had no difficulty with Air Defense Identification Zones (ADIZ) as he flew through Canada. The Canadian NORAD Region still designates escort pilots for the annual Christmas Eve journey of Santa Claus, even for those years when a Santa Cam video is not shown of their escorts duties.
In the past, many local television stations in the United States and Canada likewise tracked Santa Claus in their own metropolitan areas through the stations’ meteorologists. In December 2000, the Weather Channel built upon these local efforts to provide a national Christmas Eve Santa tracking effort, called “SantaWatch” in cooperation with NASA, the International Space Station, and Silicon Valley-based new multimedia firm Dreamtime Holdings. In the 21st century, most local television stations in the United States and Canada “outsource” their Santa tracking efforts and rely upon outside established Santa tracking efforts, such as the NORAD Tracks Santa Program.