Of course, the most important piece of gear at BuckSnort Observatory is the observatory itself. This 12'x16' roll-off style structure was built by the great guys at Backyard Observatories in June, 2010. The guys also provided (2) custom piers, roof motor, and installed the M1OASYS unit for control. Construction took about 2 days. To see construction photos and time-lapse video CLICK HERE.
The driver's seat at BuckSnort. Although the observatory can actually be driven from anywhere there is an internet connection, much time is spent in this seat configuring, programming, and maintaining the systems. The observatory currently has (2) Windows workstations. One is used strictly for imaging -- running all associated software for controlling the mount, telescope, cameras, etc. The second is used as a Meteor Scanner, constantly recording live video all night long. A little Asus laptop acts as an FTP server, uploading all of the weather and camera feeds to this website.
The observatory was built large enough to house (2) piers. My larger Paramount ME mount will eventually carry a 12.5" PlaneWave CDK telescope contributed by my buddy Phil Jones. The second pier has an adaptor to hold my Takahashi EM200 mount and can be used for a second imaging set-up or for visual use. Eventually I would like to have a dedicated large aperture wide field scope permanently installed... it's nice to have options.
Mobotix M24 B&W IP camera is used for monitoring the inside of BuckSnort -- particularly to verify the safe and secure positioning of the scopes and roof. I did not want to use an IR camera, or have to rely upon remotely turning a light off and on to see what was going on in the dark. Instead, this camera is so sensitive it is able to "see" with the ambient light from the computers and a couple of dim night lights. CLICK HERE to see the latest image from this camera.
Mobotix M12 color/b&w camera is used for security. It can create video logs of any targets that fit its criteria and email these to me, so you can't sneak up on da BuckSnort! This camera is actually (2) cameras -- the color chip is used for quality hi res daytime imaging, while an extremely sensitive b&w chip is used at night. CLICK HERE to see the latest image from this camera.
Watec WAT-902H2 Ultimate video camera used for meteor and "ufo" detection. This camera scans a portion of the sky each night in search any bright transient events. The brains of this system is the UFO Capture software by SonotaCo in Japan. For more information and to see the latest captures, go to the UFO Monitor page.
Here is the itty bitty WAT-902H2 video camera that resides inside the weatherproof housing seen above. Attached is a Fujinon 2.9-8mm f/1.0 lens. These small, highly sensitive b&w cameras with super fast lenses (I have another 12mm lens that is f/0.8) are used for night security cameras... but they also make dandy meteor catchers!
The Paramount ME is the backbone of my remote imaging set-up. "Big Red" is designed for remote controlled operation, is very accurate, and can carry at least 150 pounds of gear. A good mount is the most important part of any astronomical imaging system, since no amount of top shelf optics and expensive cameras can compensate for poor tracking -- fortunately, the Paramount ME tracks EXTREMELY well!
The largest and heaviest of my portable rigs -- a TEC 140 refractor mounted on my Takahashi EM-200 mount. I also use the TEC field flattener to correct field curvature associated with refractors. My main imaging camera is the SBIG STL-11000M with the Baader Ha,L,R,G,B filter set. Up top I have a Borg 50mm guide scope with the Orion Starshoot Autoguider camera. A Robofocus motor gives me automated focusing, while the Dew Buster unit keeps the optics above ambient temp to prevent dew.
SBIG Allsky340 camera monitors the sky conditions in a 360 degree FOV looking straight up. It uses long exposures and dark frame subtraction to capture very deep and low noise sky images, but the sun wipes it out in the daytime! CLICK HERE to see the latest image.
Davis Vantage Pro 2 weather station provides accurate weather data for BuckSnort. This wireless, solar/battery powered device collects wind, rain, pressure, humidity, etc. See the Weather page to view current data.
Boltwood Cloud Sensor II monitors cloud cover as well as temp, wind speed, and rain detection. At the first hint of rain, this device can trigger an immediate shutdown of the observatory. The cloud sensing is really cool -- temperatures are recorded from the sky and compared to ambient temps at ground level. If the sky is really cold (close to -100F) the sky is clear, but if the sky is relatively warm (close to 0F), then the sky is cloudy. It is remarkably accurate. Graphs of the Boltwood data can be seen here.
Here is my luminous "flats panel" that I hobbled together. It is used to take a particular kind of calibration image called a "flat". The idea is to photograph an evenly lit field to photograph any imperfections in the imaging path (vignetting, hot spots, dust motes, etc.). Once imaged, these artifacts can be removed from the image data.
This is my main portable imaging rig -- all the gear mentioned above, but with the Takahashi FSQ 106EDX refractor. The combo of the FSQ with the SBIG STL11K camera is a classic wide field imaging platform. Most of the images in the Deep Space Gallery were shot with this rig (either on the pictured tripod or on the pier inside BuckSnort).
This is my lightest and most portable "Grab & Go" rig -- the AstroTrac TT320X AG tracking mount, riding on the AstroTrac Wedge and Gitzo carbon fiber tripod. I use the very strong and very light Acratech GP ball head for pointing the camera. As with the Skymemo, this mount can handle a variety of camera/lens/scope combinations. Here it is pictured with the QSI 583 astro camera and a Nikon 180ED lens.

So why TWO grab & go rigs? Well, they each have pros and cons. For example, the AstroTrac mount is limited to 2 hours of tracking before it needs to be reset, plus the polar scope is not very good and limits exposure time. However, it is also extremely light, rigid, and tracks very well. Meanwhile, the Skymemo has an excellent polar scope yeilding fast and accurate polar alignment for longer exposure times and can track for many many hours -- but it is heavier and has more parts to carry.

So, depending upon how one travels (car, plane, hiking) there is a solution. If taking a car, I usually take the Skymemo, but if hiking or flying I will take the AstroTrac. For example, when I recently traveled in Australia/New Zealand I took the AstroTrac because of the much lighter/smaller payload. Plus, I knew I was going to have to drift align in the Southern hemisphere anyway, so the polar scope was not a concern!

Here is an image taken with this rig in New Zealand.
I know, I know... you are thinking "Gee, how typical that a Texan brandish a gun on his equipment page". But hear me out... As I travel to dark places late at night to enjoy the wonders of the universe, the last thing I want to think about is any kind of drama -- but stuff happens in remote areas, late at night, in the dark. Packs of wild dogs, meth labs, wild hogs, snakes, gang bangers, you name it. About a year ago, a buddy and I were at a local park testing my new TEC 140. We were all alone. Gunshots rang out and moments later a car load of gang bangers joined us in the parking lot. I thought we'd have some serious drama, but we broke down the gear at record speed and made a quick retreat before their eyes could dark adapt. Moral of the story -- I now carry a Kimber 45 ACP. I hope I never have to fire at another living thing, but I also do not want to be a victim.
This is one of two "Grab & Go" imaging rigs I have -- the Kenko Skymemo mount with Manfrotto geared head and Gitzo tripod. The Skymemo is a simple tracking tracking mount that tracks in RA only, but has a great polar scope for getting fast and accurate polar alignment. Even unguided, I can easliy get 5-10 min exposures with the Takahashi FS60 (shown above). This rig can be configured many ways, but usually it carries a DSLR or QSI astro camera with a camera lens, for ultra wide field imaging.
My DSLR of choice for shooting both day and night compositions is the Nikon D700. I love this camera. Although it is not specifically intended for astro imaging, it has a large FX sensor and has extremely good high ISO performance -- perfect for Night Landscapes! Most of the time I simply shoot on a tripod, but if I want longer exposures of the night sky I will attach it to the AstroTrac.
A view of the kit I took to OZ -- AstroTrac, QSI Camera, Wedge, polar scope, batteries, cables, lenses, etc. all fit into a Pelican case. Seen partially is my camera bag which contained my Nikon D700, more camera lenses, ball head, more batteries, and Toshiba Netbook. The Gitzo tripod fit comfortably in my checked luggage.
My first telescope from 2007 -- a Celestron CPC 800. While not an ideal imaging scope, it is great for observing (which I still use it for).
For observing the sun, I use the Coronado SolarMax 60. It is a fun little scope that gives great views!