The movie set built in the 1990s that represented Anakin Skywalker's fictional home city in Star Wars Episode I: the Phantom Menace is being consumed by a giant sand dune. The buildings of Mos Espa on the planet Tatooine were left behind in Tunisia after the film was shot in 1997. Since then, the film set has been a popular tourist destination.

However, tourists who want to visit should go soon, as the edge of the dune has reached the first of the iconic, Bedouin-style buildings.

Ralph Lorenz, an astrophysicist at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, has been studying the dune's progress, and recently wrote a report about it. He spoke to As It Happens about why a scientist would care, and whether he's rooting for Mos Espa or the sand dune.


Individual dunes can be made out in an image from NASA's New Millennium EO-1 spacecraft. Lorenz has marked the movie set with an arrow, but notes that the individual buildings are too small to see. (NASA)