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A number of questions were raised in a discussion about Post Crisis Superman... We were wondering if he could destroy the Earth with his Heat Vision and it came to my attention that in one issue He was 200,000 miles in space away from the Earth and used Heat vision to instantly raise the temperature of the entire planet by several degrees (Even the back side that was untouched by the heat vision). The beam was large enough to cover the entire surface of the side of the planet that was facing him...

So My question is this ... Can Post Crisis (Or New 52) Superman Destroy a planet with Heat Vision and are there any other instances that might suggest that he can? (It's actually pretty easy to find the illustration of this feat if you Google "Superman Heat Vision" BTW)

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While New 52 Superman has many feats since his debut, we don't have many of him using his heat vision on a massive scale and/or destructively at the same time. He is usually using it as a ranged weapon so it isn't clear just how much area he can affect destructively.

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  • If in your example he was heating the entire world, but only a few degrees, he may be able to keep that output level for far longer than say emitting an energy beam to destroy a single massive target like a skyscraper.

  • If he could ramp up the output to more than warming the planet levels of heat, it would only take a worldwide increase of a few degrees to alter weather on Earth significantly, which could conceivably make life on Earth difficult or even impossible for the human species. Technically, this could be considered destroying the Earth, albeit very slowly.

  • Perhaps he could do it faster if he were floating out over the ocean and used his heat vision to create massive clouds blocking light from the sun. Certain within the scope of his ability and he could do it indefinitely, albeit recharging as he needed to. This would be another slow means of destruction.

  • Destroying the world more violently would take him using his heat vision and perhaps boring into the crust of the Earth near a tectonic plate. The temperature of Superman's heat vision is estimated to be able to reach temperatures hotter than the surface of the sun at about 6,000 degrees Kelvin. Sufficient to melt his way to the mantle perhaps causing massive earthquakes along planetary fault lines.

  • Seeking more direct destruction, he could use his heat vision to bore into the massive underground super-volcano at Yellowstone. The massive eruption could devastate life on Earth, creating the next global ice age.

Could he direct his heat vision at the Earth and destroy it completely? Possibly, but no feat shown currently in his New 52 adventures thus far indicate his direct capacity to do so. However:

  • He has been shown to have the reserves to fly at faster than light speeds for weeks without food, water or recharging. If this is any indication of his stored energy capacity, it means he is likely capable of storing enough energy to render the surface of the Earth uninhabitable.

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Heat Vision Apocrypha

Within the DC Universe, Superman's heat vision is one of the powers most visible and incredibly destructive. On a television broadcast it was described thusly:

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  • Superman can in an as yet undisclosed fashion project energy from his eyes (not clear if its from the surface of the eye or from within the eye) a control burst of infrared radiation. He can control the range, power and intensity of this projected energy.

  • He has the power to manipulate this power so precisely he has been able to perform brain surgery through the pupil of his enemy's eyes! His precision and mental acuity in using it allows him to do almost impossibly precise things with it.

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  • Superman has used it to melt the bottom of a battleship in an instant, to create a prison to trap the New God, Orion. It's destructive capacity is unrivaled, but without understanding the physics of it, we don't know if it has limits.

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  • Classically it is said using his heat vision drained his powers faster than any other use of his abilities. One of the most impressive feats of destruction with heat vision was vaporizing the numerous Doomsday clones simultaneously.

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  • Using heat vision drew directly from his inner energy reserves. He needed to recharge after extended, prolonged or extremely destructive use. Seconds after blasting the Doomsday clones he is momentarily driven to his knees by exhaustion.

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  • New 52 Superman uses his heat vision far more than any previous version of the Superman seemed to. Likely writers hoping to make better use of the power, particularly for ranged attacks and the impressive visual effects.

  • In the New 52, an extended use of his heat vision triggered a new expression of his stored energy, the Super-Flare. This burst of energy appeared to have a nuclear level output but it left no serious trace of radiation and a Superman whose energy stores were reduced to nearly zero, rendering him almost powerless.

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