Don Cline, founder of Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute, discusses the total eclipse that will occur August 21, 2017.
Angela Wilhelm/

Astronomy isn’t just for “Big Bang Theory” enthusiasts. But unfortunately, so many of us take for granted the endless swath of protection and ever-changing colors and shapes over our heads, until something like a gigantic total solar eclipse comes our way.

And it’s coming our way – that is, the Western North Carolina way – on Aug. 21, less than a month away.

If you’re one of the slightly celestially under-primed, get your astronomy juices flowing at some of the many pre-eclipse talks, seminars and star gazes taking place across the mountains.

Southwestern Community College in Sylva in Jackson County (which is in the path of totality), is hosting a panel of eclipse experts at 6-8 p.m. Aug. 20 led by Enrique. A. Gómez, associate professor of physics and astronomy at Western Carolina University.

It is organized by Matt Cass, physics and astronomy faculty at SCC, supported through the Smoky Mountain Science Collaborative and partly funded by NASA, Gómez said.

He said the free panel discussion will include the science beyond the eclipse, history of eclipses, how to experience it safely, and more.

The panel will include Gómez, an expert in supernovas and cosmic rays; Paul Hackert, WCU faculty member and expert in binary stars; Dr. Rachel Smith, faculty at Appalachian State University and head of the North Carolina Museum of Science Astronomy and Astrophysics Lab; and David Sitar, faculty at ASU in the department of physics and astronomy.

The Asheville Museum of Science in downtown Asheville, 43 Patton Ave., also holds weekend astronomy programs. These are usually from 1-4 p.m. They are free with admission, but…