The discovery of a supernova by a North Canterbury farmer has been confirmed by the Royal Astronomical Society of New Zealand.

Dairy farmer Stuart Parker captured an image of the exploding star with a computer-controlled camera mounted to an amateur 14" telescope.

Marilyn Head from the Society said the capture of "such a fleeting event in one faint galaxy amongst the many hundreds within the reach of amateur telescopes takes perseverance, skill and luck".

Studies of the supernova's light spectrum revealed it to be the result of a self-destructive explosion of a massive star in a spiral galaxy more than 60 million light years from earth.

A supernova occurs when a star exhausts its nuclear fuel and "momentarily shines more brightly than the billions of stars which make up the galaxy", the Society said.

Mr Parker said he could search up to 200 galaxies on a clear night.

He has been chasing a glimpse of a supernova for several years while working with an informal network of Australian astronomers.

Astronomy is the perfect hobby for farmers because their location allows access to clear dark skies with limited light pollution, said Mr Parker.

- NZ HERALD STAFF