Photo Courtesy Gavin Heffernan / Project SKYGLOW

There’s an existential beauty in the fact that everything on this Earth will eventually fall into decay; that our vibrant world is littered with the abandoned husks of past life, past ecosystems, and past civilizations. Even relics that speak to humanity’s exploitation of the natural world can take on a quiet elegance with the passage of time.

Few artists capture that elegance like Harun Mehmedinovic and Gavin Heffernan, the duo behind SKYGLOW, an ongoing effort to document starry skies around the country as they disappear due to light pollution. In their latest work, “Mojave Forsaken” the photographers trekked out to the Old West mining towns of Bodie and Rhyolite, California, and Cerro Gordo, Nevada.

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The footage they captured will most certainly mess you up. In a good way.

According to SKYGLOW, each of the 19th and early 20th century settlements collapsed with the end of the gold rush. The ghost towns now exist in a state of “controlled decay,” managed by National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management, or private owners. Against the dazzlingly clear skies of the southwest’s high-altitude deserts, the crumbling remnants of America’s early mining industry look like natural wonders.

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“At night, due to high elevation, clarity of the skies, and lack of sources of light pollution, these [shots] give us a glimpse of the night sky as it would have been seen by inhabitants of these towns a century ago,” Heffernan told Earther.

Honestly, this may be the first time I’ve gotten misty eyed over mining.