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Numerical simulations at the frontier of relativistic astrophysics

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In the coming years, astrophysical observations of strongly gravitating systems will provide us with exciting new data to study extremely compact objects and Einstein’s theory of general relativity. In particular, gravitational wave observatories will soon reach the sensitivity required to detect merging black holes and neutron stars, while the Event Horizon Telescope is about to observe accretion flows around two supermassive black holes with sub-horizon resolution. Accurate modeling of these systems require complex simulations including general relativistic magnetohydrodynamics, radiation transport, and, for the Event Horizon Telescope, heat conduction and viscosity in a nearly collisionless plasma. In this talk, I will discuss recent results from global general relativistic simulations of these systems. I will mainly focus on our understanding of the gravitational wave and electromagnetic signals powered by binary mergers, and what they may tell us about the properties of neutron-rich nuclear matter and the origin of many heavy elements observed in the Universe today. I will also discuss how to model non-ideal fluids in general relativistic magnetohydrodynamics simulations of accretion disks, and how non-ideal effects may modify the properties of accretion flows around slowly accreting supermassive black holes — including the two targets of the Event Horizon Telescope.