Colloquium

The Merger of Binary Black Holes in Gaseous Environments

Numerical relativity has become an essential tool for solving Einstein's equations of general relativity for dynamical systems characterized by high velocities approaching the speed of light and strong gravitational fields. The implementation of new algorithms that can solve these nonlinear equations has enabled us to tackle many long-standing problems of astrophysical interest, leading to an explosion of important new results. Thanks to numerical relativity, the inspiral and merger of a binary black hole in a vacuum spacetime is a solved problem. Now numerical relativity is turning its powerful machinery to simulating many other scenarios, including the inspiral and merger of other compact binaries, as well as binary black hole mergers in more realistic astrophysical settings, like gaseous clouds and circumbinary disks. The goal is to probe events for which both gravitational and electromagnetic waves can be observed simultaneously from the same cosmic source. Some recent work at Illinois to advance this goal will be sketched in this talk. Computer-generated movies showing highlights of some of our relativistic simulations will be shown.

Followed by wine and cheese in Pupin 1402.

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