A good thing comes from the “New Star Wars” movies!

When I start to go on rants about how disappointed I am with the three newer Star Wars movies I try to remember that I am an adult in my late 30’s and that these are movies for kids and about space wizards. It rarely stops my rants but it does at least contextualize the reasons the “New Star Wars” movies annoy me. I am of course not alone, there are in fact many people much angrier than I. For peace of mind I prefer to pretend that these movies were simply never made. My childhood memories are therefore safe, and these new films aren’t really related, just some side project, a failed form of fan art.

But, filed under “things I wish I’d thought of” is an actual positive use of those movies! Published recently in Geomorphology is

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Lorenz, R. D., Gasmi, N., Radebaugh, J., Barnes, J. W., & Ori, G. G. (2013). Dunes on planet Tatooine: Observation of barchan migration at the Star Wars film set in Tunisia. Geomorphology, 201, 264–271. doi:10.1016/j.geomorph.2013.06.026(/small>

The authors looked at satellite imagery covering west-central Tunisia, focusing in on the now abandoned Mos Espa set that was used to film the 1999 Phantom Menace (although the filming was in 1997). The location information is all in the paper, but here are some google earth screen shots to set the stage:

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The region is filled with barchan dunes, and the authors use the movie set and a time series of satellite data shot since 1997 to study dune migration. The set essentially offers a stationary point in an otherwise nondescript landscape.

I started thinking of where I’d want to do something similar. Not a dune study, but what movie location would be great to visit and include in something publishable. My first thought was Helm’s Deep, obviously the formation of the valley and associated caves deserves a thermochronologic perspective. Or perhaps the Ered Nimrais more broadly? Unfortunately however, I  realized that the ubiquity of the green screen is making this kind of an endeavor harder and harder. Perhaps I need to go back in time?

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