Actually, meteors can appear
to travel in any direction (even "up" - think about it), and appear anywhere in the sky. As long as it's above
the horizon, and not passing in front of buildings/telegraph poles/mountains, it's probably a meteor (or a satellite/space junk if it's very
They can also vary in brightness and color tremendously. Although the vast majority of meteors are dim, bright meteors are surprisingly common, and
can be seen all the time, if you are prepared to wait and watch. I've personally seen meteors casting shadows (brighter than the moon), and some that
are so dim, you would not notice them if they were not moving!
Meteor activity does vary throughout the year, but it never stops, although we can't always see it (eg. in daylight). There are sporadic (random)
meteors which don't belong to any showers (that we can tell at least) constantly bombarding us all the time.
As well as the sporadic background, at almost any given time of year there are at least one or two minor showers active, if not any major showers.
This time of year is fairly busy, with at least 7 minor showers
active right now.
With all activity at the moment, it's not unreasonable to expect to see 3-4 meteors per hour early on in the evening, and perhaps 5-10 per hour in
the AM hours, if you have good viewing conditions free from light pollution.
Hope this helps clear up some misconceptions
Edit to add:
There are so many factors that determine exactly how a meteor appears to us, so much so that effectively, no two meteors will appear exactly the same,
although meteors belonging to the same shower often share similar characteristics.
If you watch for a while, you'll see that meteors are so much more than quick bland-white streaks... some go slow, some go fast, some have a tail and
some leave a trail! Some throw off sparks, and some look like "roman candle" balls of light or flares. Some explode, and some cross the sky
gracefully lasting many seconds. Almost every color can be seen in meteors, and in some cases a single meteor can display all of them. The intensity
of the colors can be breathtaking!
I'm only just scratching the surface here. Meteors are full of surprises. Just when you think you've seen it all, you see something completely new
that leaves you speechless. Keep in mind, I've been watching meteors for 10 years nearly and I still am constantly surprised by meteors that I see,
so anyone who has little or no experience watching meteors is likely to be fairly shocked by some of the things meteors can do!
[edit on 6-10-2008 by C.H.U.D.]