From ground level, it's easy to see how old "houses" used in the filming of Star Wars can quickly turn into forgotten ruins. But when you look at the bigger picture, you get a more interesting story.


A run-down old set from Star Wars Episode I has found itself the centre of an important scientific study. Normally, homes in the desert aren't built in "dune fields", but the Mos Espa set from 1999's Phantom Menace (home of a young Anakin Skywalker) was, so its fixed location has given scientists an "anchor point" with which to study the shifting of the dune's sands.

When Ralph Lorenz (Johns Hopkins University), Jason Barnes (University of Idaho) and Nabil Gasmi (University of Sousse) first visited the set in 2009, they saw that parts were already being buried in the sand. Keeping track of it via satellite imagery over the next few years let them measure just how quickly, and how deeply, the desert sands were moving across the area.

They found that the dunes move around 15 metres a year. If you watch the sand in the gif above, and not the "town", you'll see it shifting to the left. This means that, because of the type of dunes that form in the area, once Mos Espa is buried, it'll eventually re-emerge once the dune moves on. How much is left after that, though, is anyone's guess.

Star Wars home of Anakin Skywalker threatened by dune [BBC]

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