Some people thought it was lightning, others thought it was a shooting star, or maybe neighbours setting off fireworks.

But the bright flash that lit up the sky over P.E.I. and around the Maritimes around 9 p.m. Tuesday night was likely a bright meteor called a fireball, says astronomer David Lane, director of the observatory at Saint Mary's University in Halifax.

David Lane

Astronomer David Lane says the fireball was likely a meteor. (CBC)

"We don't know how fast it was going. We don't know what it was made of, so a lot of it's just a wild guess as to how big it was or what orbit it was around the sun, said Lane.         

Paul Aitken was heading east on Route 3 just past Cherry Valley when he saw the flash in the sky to the east.

"It looked like lightning. I thought, big flash, it was kind of strange this time of year to be lightning. One complete flash and that was it," said Aitken.

Aitken says he tries to keep his camera within arm's reach, but the fireball was too fast for him.

'Really exciting'

Kendall Docherty, who was driving toward Montague when he saw the fireball, also thought it was lightning.

"We looked in time to actually see it and you could see this big ball. Once it got closer to earth, it got really bright and then it just kind of faded away. It almost looked like a falling star as it fell," said Docherty.

Kendall Docherty

Kendall Docherty said the fireball looked like a falling star. (CBC)

Jessica D'Amico was in the Eastlink Centre parking lot talking on the phone with her mom.

"There was something blue in the sky and it just exploded, some big flash just happened. I don't think she really believed me at first. But after a while, she realized I did see something," said D'Amico.

"I knew it might have been a meteor or something. It was just really exciting. I wasn't scared or anything. It was really exciting that I actually saw something like that because it doesn't really happen very often.

Finding where a meteorite landed is a rare occurrence, say scientists. In fact, only one has ever been found in the Maritimes.