Alien Big Apple: Artist Envisions NYC on Other Planets

New York City as seen through Mercury's atmosphere
How New York City would like to an observer on sun-scorched Mercury, whose wispy atmosphere is almost completely transparent. (Image credit: Nickolay Lamm of

New York City seems alien enough to many of its visitors, but imagine how strange it would look if whisked away to another planet.

A new art project does just that, transplanting the Big Apple to Mercury, Venus, Mars and our solar system's other non-dwarf planets (Pluto was not included).

Pittsburgh-based artist Nickolay Lamm composed the amazing NYC illustrations for other planets with help from former NASA astrobiologist M. Browning Vogel. Lamm said the idea came to him after seeing photos taken by NASA's Mars Rover Curiosity of the huge and mysterious Mount Sharp, which rises 3.4 miles (5.5 kilometers) into the Red Planet's sky. [How NYC Would Look on Other Planets (Gallery)]

"I felt that if I could show people what New York City looked like on other planets, I'd give people a sense of how lucky we are to be living on Earth," Lamm told via email. "Sure, it's cheesy, but life truly is a miracle."

Venus' thick atmosphere is dominated by CO2 with clouds of sulfuric acid, creating a yellowish envelope of hot, sulfurous air that would obscure New York's skyline, as well as the sun. (Image credit: Nickolay Lamm of

The illustrations help convey the striking diversity of worlds in our solar system. New York City's famous skyline blazes against the black sky of tiny, sun-scorched Mercury, for example, but is almost completely obscured by thick haze on neighboring Venus.

And the Big Apple would probably cease to exist on frigid Uranus and Neptune, blown to pieces by the otherworldly gales that howl through the skies of these two "ice giants." Neptune's winds can reach up to 1,500 mph (2,400 km/h), the fastest yet detected in the solar system. 

Then there's the familiar view of New York City as it actually exists, framed by a blue sky on our temperate Earth, waves lapping at the Statue of Liberty's feet.

Frigid Uranus rotates perpendicular to the plane of its orbit. At some latitudes it has winds that are stronger than the most powerful hurricanes on Earth and would thus wipe out structures like the Statue of Liberty. The planet's hydrogen-helium atmosphere has a considerable fraction of methane, giving the air an aquamarine tint. (Image credit: Nickolay Lamm of

Lamm hopes his illustrations spur people to appreciate such a seemingly mundane terrestrial scene a little more, and to stop taking for granted everything that makes life possible here on Earth.

"If you look outside, the sky, the air, the ground, the water, all mix perfectly to create what we call life. From our perspective, everything seems abundant," Lamm said. "By giving people perspectives of New York City on different planets, I'm hoping to show people that everything around us isn't as abundant as we perceive it to be."

Lamm created the project for He drew the illustrations in Photoshop, spending two to three hours on each one and working with another artist to make sure the images matched descriptions of the planets provided by Vogel.

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Mike Wall
Senior Space Writer

Michael Wall is a Senior Space Writer with and joined the team in 2010. He primarily covers exoplanets, spaceflight and military space, but has been known to dabble in the space art beat. His book about the search for alien life, "Out There," was published on Nov. 13, 2018. Before becoming a science writer, Michael worked as a herpetologist and wildlife biologist. He has a Ph.D. in evolutionary biology from the University of Sydney, Australia, a bachelor's degree from the University of Arizona, and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California, Santa Cruz. To find out what his latest project is, you can follow Michael on Twitter.