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Desert Dune Threatens Famed 'Star Wars' Tatooine Set

Lucasfilm Ltd. Lucasfilm Ltd.

Who has the guts to challenge Darth Vader? Mother nature, apparently ... via a Pac-Man-shaped dune. Seriously. Dun dun da da da dun dun! 

The U.K.'s Independent reports a giant sand dune with a gaping mouth (which actually looks like the yellow video game character, no joke) is headed straight for the Tunisian set of Mos Espa, the Tatooine spaceport where Anakin Skywalker and Darth Vader grew up in "Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace." Boo! 

And this is a pretty sticky situation because the fictional "Star Wars" set is a major tourist attraction in Tunisia, bringing in some serious dough every year from the George Lucas faithful (and, we suppose, anyone who's obsessed with that random band who made a music video there).

scientific report from the University of Arizona indicates the dune — technically called a barchan — is moving swiftly at 50 feet a year and is on its way, evidently, to destroy the nostalgic site altogether. Check out the movement of this sand monster as captured from three images spanning from '08-'12.

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But wait, is there hope, Obi-Wan? Maybe. The Tunisian government is apparently starting to realize just how much of a loss Mos Espa could be to its tourism economy, and they may attempt to block Señor Pac-Man from doing its worst. Huzzah!

"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," John Hopkins University's Dr. Ralph Lorenz told The Independent. "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."

However, it is possible that even walls won't help. In this case, Lorenz and his co-authors Nabil Gasmi, Jani Radebaugh,  Jason W. Barnes and Gian G. Ori say Tunisians may just have to wait for the dune to do its thang and split.

"Should the barchan that forms the focus of this paper overrun the Mos Espa set, many buildings will be temporarily buried," the science dudes explained. "Their rather flimsy construction will mean roofs will likely collapse, degrading the attraction of the site when the dune moves on."

It'd also make it pretty difficult for these people to continue living within the site buildings, eh?

Fingers crossed Mos Espa can survive this dune and continue to thrill "Star Wars" fans (and random desert squatters) for years to come.

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