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The Final Merger of Black-Hole Binaries

Abstract

Recent breakthroughs in the field of numerical relativity have led to dramatic progress in understanding the predictions of General Relativity for the dynamical interactions of two black holes in the regime of very strong gravitational fields. Such black-hole binaries are important astrophysical systems and are a key target of current and developing gravitational-wave detectors. The waveform signature of strong gravitational radiation emitted as the black holes fall together and merge provides a clear observable record of the process. After decades of slow progress, these mergers and the gravitational-wave signals they generate can now be routinely calculated using the methods of numerical relativity. We review recent advances in understanding the predicted physics of events and the consequent radiation, and discuss some of the impacts this new knowledge is having in various areas of astrophysics.Comment: 57 pages; 9 figures. Updated references & fixed typos. Published version is at http://www.annualreviews.org/doi/abs/10.1146/annurev.nucl.010909.08324

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