Photos in Abu Dhabi believed to show set of new Star Wars film
At first glance, they appear to be nothing more than pictures of an unremarkable tent in the depths of the Arabian desert. But for the legions of Stars Wars fans, a set of grainy images could provide a seductive first insight into Star Wars: Episode VII, a film that has become one of the most closely guarded secrets in Hollywood.
Taken last week by a photographer from Abu Dhabi newspaper The National, the three pictures allegedly show a film set being built in the dunes near the resort of Qasr Al Sarab that bears similarities to Tatooine, the desert-like home planet of Luke Skywalker.
One piece of equipment - a giant, round, grey disc - has got fans debating online whether it could be part of an escape pod in which C-3P0 and R2-D2 crash-landed on Tatooine in the original 1977 film Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope or part of the foot of an AT-AT vehicle first seen in The Empire Strikes Back.
It has also given fans the most convincing evidence yet that filming for the next part of the space odyssey is about to begin in Abu Dhabi.
Tunisia was used as the setting of the fantasy planet in the earlier Star Wars films, but the turbulent political climate there is believed to have forced the filmmakers to move.
The images have titillated fans who, since the Disney revival of the Star Wars franchise was announced 18 months ago, have been starved of hard facts about the new space trilogy.
Many Hollywood stars have been attached to the project, but the trio of leads remains unknown. This month Benedict Cumberbatch became the latest celebrity to deny he has a coveted role, joining Saiorse Ronan and Jesse Plemons.
But it has been the (still unofficial yet widely accepted) news that director JJ Abrams will bring back the original cast of Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford and Mark Hamill to reprise their roles as Princess Leia, Han Solo and Luke Skywalker that has ensured Episode VII has the stamp of approval from Star Wars devotees.
Scott Chitwood, co-founder of theforce.net, a Star Wars fan site, said: "JJ Abrams is making every choice that I as a fan would like to see. I love Mark Hamill, and though he has a long way to go to get in shape, to blaze a new trail with Star Wars films they've got to tie them to the old ones for legitimacy."