The massive wind-blown, crescent-shaped sand dunes, or barchans, move at a rate of about 50 feet per year.
The structures built to film the movie have proved useful to scientists studying sand dune movements, since virtually no permanent structures exist in the desert regions because sand will eventually overtake them. The permanent buildings erected for the movies offer a fixed point off of which barchan movement can be mapped, the BBC said Friday.
The set was created as the fictional home of young Anakin Skywalker on the planet Tatooine. It served as the city of Mos Espa in "Episode I: The Phantom Menace."
Ralph Lorenz, of Johns Hopkins University, Jason Barnes of Brigham Young University, and Nabil Gasmi of the University of Sousse, Tunisia, visited the Mos Espa site in 2009 and noted one portion had already been overtaken by sand dunes. Eventually, they said, dunes will pass over the entire set and it will re-emerge, though not likely unscathed.