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We study the head-on collision of two equal-mass momentarily stationary black holes, using black hole perturbation theory up to second order. Compared to first-order results, this significantly improves agreement with numerically computed wave forms and energy. Much more important, second-order results correctly indicate the range of validity of perturbation theory. This use of second-order corrections to provide “error bars” to the first-order results makes perturbation theory a viable tool for providing benchmarks for numerical relativity in more generic collisions and, in some range of collision parameters, for supplying wave form templates for gravitational wave detection. © 1996 The American Physical Society.

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Physical Review Letters

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