Incredible images show Star Wars’ Tatooine set is about to be eaten by giant Pacman-shaped sand dune

Scientists say Phantom Menace settlement is doomed to follow in footsteps of New Hope set overrun nearby

The city where Anakin Skywalker grew up is set to be destroyed by a giant, Pacman-shaped sand dune that is working its way across the Tunisian desert.

Scientists from the Space Department of a US university warned the public not to underestimate the power of the force involved in moving the huge crescent of sand, known as a “barchan”, which is expected to devastate the city of Mos Espa, featured in Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace.

The film set is a major tourist site in Tunisia, with thousands of fans making the pilgrimage each year via the nearby oasis town of Tozeur to see the childhood home of the future Darth Vader.

Scientists have been observing the fate of the city from space for some time, using it as a reference point in order to be able to compare the speed of sand dune migration on Earth to that of Mars, and Saturn’s largest moon Titan.

The barchan is estimated to be moving at a rate of 15 metres a year, some 10 times faster than those on Mars, and tourism photos from this year - featured as an example of “geomorphologically-useful citizen science” – indicate that the front edge has already reached the first buildings on the outskirts of Mos Espa.

The first author of the report, Dr Ralph Lorenz from John Hopkins University in the US, wrote in a guest article for the Planetary Society: “In 2009, a large barchan dune loomed just east of the site. But even only a few years ago, this dune was nowhere near!”

Dr Lorenz compared the fate of Mos Espa to that of a nearby set used in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, which was overcome by sand in 2003.

The astrophysics expert, who has previously compared the moment Titan moved into view of a giant telescope to a scene in Episode IV where a planet drifts into the sights of the Death Star, said: “Reality can sometimes be more amazing than science fiction.”

While dune migration can be difficult to predict, Dr Lorenz estimated that nothing short of an heroic intervention could save Mos Espa, once home to Anakin, his slave owner Watto, and rival pod-racer Sebulba.

He said: “Even if the threatening barchan fizzles out as it meets the set, a larger, slower-moving barchan is lumbering behind it. Watch this space!”

For obvious reasons settlements are not normally built amongst the volatile dunes, and so government intervention to stop the sands of time is rare.

But the scientists’ report indicated an exception could be made here. It said: “Given the importance of this site to the tourism industry of Tunisia, it may be that it is a candidate for mitigation measures, not being pursued at present.

“These could include erecting fences or walls, bulldozing the approaching dune (which would take considerable effort and would have to be repeated with each oncoming dune), or moving the site out of the path of the dunes.”

The destruction of home planets and towns was something of a running theme throughout the Star Wars saga. Fans around the world will be hoping the same fate does not befall the real life Mos Espa.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + competitive + incentives + uncapped comms: SThree:...

Ashdown Group: Reporting & Analytics Supervisor - Buckinghamshire - £36,000

£34000 - £36000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Analytics & Reporting Tea...

Recruitment Genius: Junior Web Developer

£16000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is a world leader ...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive - OTE £25,000

£13000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to be part of a ...

Day In a Page

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future