A fireball spotted falling from the night sky over parts of western and central Japan has lit up social media, with users sharing images of the unusually bright shooting star.

Local media said the fireball was believed to be a bolide, an extremely bright meteor that explodes in the atmosphere.

"We believe the last burst of light was as bright as the full moon," Takeshi Inoue, director of the Akashi Municipal Planetarium, told Kyodo news agency.

The fireball was visible for just a few seconds in the early hours of Sunday.

However, it was caught on cameras owned by national broadcaster NHK, which generally capture earthquake activity rather than extraterrestrial light shows.

"The sky went bright for a moment and I felt strange because it couldn't be lightning," said one Twitter user who saw the fireball. "I felt the power of the universe!"

"Was that a fireball? I thought it was the end of the world..." said another, tweeting a video of the meteor captured while driving.

A similarly bright shooting star was spotted over Tokyo in July and later identified as a meteor, fragments of which were found in neighbouring Chiba prefecture.