Some have described it as a meteor or a shooting star, while others have called it a big flaming ball.

Exactly what it was that flashed across New Zealand skies last night remains somewhat of a mystery.

Dozens of reports started to appear online, about 6.30pm, of a bright object flying across the sky.

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It was sighted in parts of the North Island; with reports coming in from different parts of Auckland, the Waikato and wider Bay of Plenty region.

Tauranga astronomer David Greg had no doubts about what he saw: "The most spectacular meteor I have ever seen."

Greg, of the Tauranga Astronomical Society, was at the Matua observatory for a meeting when he heard a Scouts group shout: "Wow, look at that."

He described what he saw as a very bright and persistent meteor that was travelling north to south.

It is thought the same object was seen in parts of Australia last night, with a lot of eye witness accounts coming in from Queensland in particular.

Australian media have questioned whether it was really a meteor and not bits of a spacecraft that launched from India this week.

The Chandrayaan-2 mission successfully launched this week in a bid to find out more about the unexplored south pole - or the dark side - of the moon.

Astronomer Dr Grant Christie, of the Stardome Observatory & Planetarium, said he was yet to see footage of last night's event, but that sometimes it was hard to tell whether or not the object seen was man-made.

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"If it's going relatively slowly, it's probably a re-entry piece of aircraft."

However, it was not uncommon to see meteors in this part of the world, he said.

Some seen in New Zealand over the past decade or so had been bigger and brighter.

WeatherWatch said it had received "dozens" of reports of people seeing the object in the sky from around New Zealand.

People who left eye witness accounts gave varying descriptions.

One said the object moved all too slow and had a bright orange or red hue with a trail behind it.

"The experience was three-and-a-half seconds and happened around 8.20pm...in the Auckland suburb of Epsom."

Another witness said: "I'm from Morrinsville and witnessed a large light shooting through the sky. I assumed it was a shooting star, but it was a lot bigger than a regular one and also had a spark trail following it.

"Maybe the debris from that space station people [are] talking about. Who knows."