For all those Star Wars fans who would rather forget that those terrible prequel films ever happened, Mother Nature is here to lend a hand.

The fictional city of Mos Espa, built in the Tunisian Desert for "Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace," is under threat by a giant Pac-Man-shaped sand dune known as a barchan. The behemoth of doom is moving across the desert at the rate of about 50 feet per year. Researchers are using the film set to study the barchan, which has known cousins on Mars and Saturn's moon Titan.

Fortunately for Mos Espa, the Tunisian government may step in to perform some dune remediation, owing to the site's value in the tourism trade.

Ralph Lorenz from John Hopkins University told the UK Telegraph: "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."

If those efforts fail and the city falls prey to the barchan, tourism officials only have to wait while the dune passes over the site.

dune The Pac-Man-shaped sand dune is not a unique occurrence. Similar geological features exist on Mars and on Saturn's moon, Titan. (Photo: The University of Arizona)

"Should the barchan that forms the focus of this paper overrun the Mos Espa set, many buildings will be temporarily buried," the researchers write. "Their rather flimsy construction will mean roofs will likely collapse, degrading the attraction of the site when the dune moves on. This has already been seen at a smaller film set. This structure was overrun by a barchan around 2004, and has been substantially demolished, although it is still an object of pilgrimage by Star Wars fans, who also admire the barchans a few hundred meters to the south, which are prominent in several scenes of the movie."

Check out a 2008 video from the Mos Espa set (including views from the encroaching barchan) below. As an aside, George Lucas never should have killed Darth Maul. What a great villain!

Michael d'Estries ( @michaeldestries ) covers science, technology, art, and the beautiful, unusual corners of our incredible world.

Famed 'Star Wars' set threatened by monster sand dune
The Tunisian desert film set, built for 'Star Wars Episode I,' will eventually be swallowed whole by the rapidly advancing dune.