posted on Apr, 17 2012 @ 09:56 PM
reply to post by stealthmonkey
It seems that you are confusing light and physical matter.
When a solar flare occurs, the flare consists of ignited gases that travel at a high-rate of speed, but no-where near approaching the speed of light.
If we pretend that the flare didn't output any form of radiation (visible light is a form of radiation) you are correct in that we would never see it
unless it reached Earth.
Flares however DO emit lots of different kinds of radiation, including light (photons). These photons travel at the speed of light until they hit
enough "stuff" to slow them down. This is the reason why we're only able to "see" a certain distance into the universe. At a certain point, light
hits so much matter between its originating point and Earth that it slows down so much it effectively never reaches Earth. Even with our best
technology, to our perception anything past that point is pure "nothingness".
Between the Sun & the Earth there isn't a whole lot of matter, so a good chunk of the light radiation reaches Earth, where some of it hits our eyes.
We don't know the photon even exists until it hits our eyes and our brains process the resulting signal generated by the rods & cones in our eyes.
So back to the solar flare. The fiery gas cloud never comes remotely close to hitting Earth, but it does emitt a whole bunch of photons (light
radiation). It takes ~8minutes for (some of) those photons to reach Earth, hit our eyes and be turned into a series of signals that our brain turns
into an image. That means when you "see" the flare, although your brain is telling you that the flare (fiery cloud of gas & plasma) happened at the
exact moment you are observing it, in reality the photon has already been travelling for ~8mins.
To go into anymore detail about perception etc you'd need to read up about relativity and quantum mechanics which is probably a bit above your
current level of understanding (gotta learn to walk before you run). Quantum Mechanics in particular is enough to make any mere mortals head implode
Hopefully that cleared up any confusion. If not try re-phrasing your question/theory differently.