Azimuthal correlations of pions are studied with the quantum molecular dynamics model. Pions are preferentially emitted perpendicular to the reaction plane. Our analysis shows that this anisotropy is dominated by pion absorption on the spectator matter in the reaction plane. Pions emitted perpendicular to the reaction plane undergo less rescattering than those emitted in the reaction plane and might therefore be more sensitive to the early hot and dense reaction phase
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