AT first he froze with fear as what appeared to be a burning aeroplane dropped from the sky towards a Midlothian field.

But when he realised he wasn't witnessing an aviation disaster unfold as he took his daughter to school, David Carson reached for his camera.

For the next ten minutes, the 40-year-old took dozens of pictures of a strange streak of light across the Lothians sky that eventually broke into an orange glow and then appeared to hit the ground.

A frantic call to police confirmed to Mr Carson that it wasn't a downed aircraft, but astronomers today were at odds about what the phenomenon actually could have been.

Professor John Peacock, of the Institute for Astronomy at the University of Edinburgh, said it had probably been a meteor fireball.

But acclaimed astronomer Alan Pickup was adamant the strange streak of glowing cloud was simply a condensation trial from a passing aircraft.

Mr Carson was just getting into his van to take his 14-year-old daughter Jane to school when a peculiar flash of light in the sky to the east caught his eye.

"I saw a vapour trail that looked like it belonged to a plane then below it was this really strange streak of light," explained the furniture restorer and amateur photographer, who had taken his camera out with him to capture the frosty sunrise on Monday morning.

"I honestly thought a plane had been blown out the sky at first and just panicked.

"I was shouting at Jane, 'What do I do? What do I do?'.

"I grabbed the camera and started taking pictures of the streak as it got nearer to the ground.

"A bit at the front appeared to break off and turned bright orange before looking like it crashed into the ground.

"I was really all over the place because I didn't know if it was the end of the world or what, it was such a strange sight."

The incident, which took place about one mile south of Penicuik near to Ravensneuk Farm, lasted about ten minutes from 8.30am on Monday morning.

The fireball - if that is indeed what it was - would have crashed to Earth about a couple of miles east of the A701 Peebles Road.

If the rock hit the earth it would be classed as a meteorite rather than a meteor.

Professor John Peacock, of the Institute for Astronomy at the University of Edinburgh, said: "It is probably a meteor fireball - quite a rare and spectacular example, and well worth publishing."

However, a spokesman for the British Geological Survey said that there had been no seismic activity that could have been caused by a meteorite strike in the Penicuik area during the time of the incident.

Astronomy writer Alan Pickup said he thought the streak was simply a vapour condensation trail from an overhead aircraft. He said: "Condensation streaks in the direction of the rising sun can look very odd but there is no way this was a meteor.

"There are a lot of false sightings because of conditions like this but if it had been a meteor then it would occurred a lot quicker than this and would have been much brighter."

A police spokeswoman confirmed officers attended Mr Carson's home and made inquiries with the British Geological Survey and British Airport Authority.