A spectacular fireball has been seen streaking across the sky by people across the North-East and further afield.

A luminescent green ball, which burned brightly for several seconds as it plunged earthward, could have been caused by an object no bigger than a pea.

It is thought it could have been an early arrival of the Lyrid meteor shower expected to begin tonight (Thursday, April 16) - caused when the earth passes through the dusty tail of Comet Thatcher.

The larger-than-average meteor fell in the northern skies at 9.25pm last night with sightings in County Durham, Newcastle, North Yorkshire, and Cumbria. It was first reported online by The Northern Echo's website.

Amateur astronomer Martin Whipp, of Ripon, North Yorkshire, said: "I was heading back home driving parallel to the A1 near Boroughbridge when I saw it.

"It was magnitude -5, which is slightly bigger than Venus and was visible for two to three seconds before it broke up into pieces as it came down. It was slightly greenish in colour."

Mr Whipp, who has been a member of the York Astronomical Society for more than 20 years, said: "It was a fireball. Anything brighter than Venus is classed as a fireball. Anything smaller than that is just a meteor.

"My estimate is that it would only be the size of a pea. It looks so spectacular when it enters the atmosphere because it causes so much friction.

"And what you actually see is the gas bubble around it being burned off by the friction."

Mr Whipp added the greenish colour could be caused by some sort of copper. If it had hit the ground it would be called a meteorite. A normal meteor is about the size of a grain of sand and would burn up completely.

Mr Whipp said the Lyrid meteor shower - also known as the April Lyrids - would begin tonight and peak on Wednesday.

He said: "The Lyrids are quite bright, so it could have been an early arrival. Having said that there are meteor showers going on all the time."

Ian Critchley, of Birkenhead, near Liverpool, said he was travelling along the M6 near the A6 turnoff when he saw a bright flash.

He said: "It was a greenish fireball with purplish tinges. It appeared to be half a mile away, but it was very difficult to judge the scale.

"It up the inside of the car, it was that that bright. It looked as though it came to ground west of the motorway."