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Microscopic calculations of central collisions between heavy nuclei are used to study fragment production and the creation of collective flow. It is shown that the final phase space distributions are compatible with the expectations from a thermally equilibrated source, which in addition exhibits a collective transverse expansion. However, the microscopic analyses of the transient states in the reaction stages of highest density and during the expansion show that the system does not reach global equilibrium. Even if a considerable amount of equilibration is assumed, the connection of the measurable final state to the macroscopic parameters, e.g. the temperature, of the transient "equilibrium" state remains ambiguous.

Compelling evidence for the creation of a new form of matter has been claimed to be found in Pb+Pb collisions at SPS. We discuss the uniqueness of often proposed experimental signatures for quark matter formation in relativistic heavy ion collisions. It is demonstrated that so far none of the proposed signals like J/psi meson production/suppression, strangeness enhancement, dileptons, and directed flow unambigiously show that a phase of deconfined matter has been formed in SPS Pb+Pb collisions. We emphasize the need for systematic future measurements to search for simultaneous irregularities in the excitation functions of several observables in order to come close to pinning the properties of hot, dense QCD matter from data.

To describe ultrarelativistic heavy-ion collisions we construct a three-fluid hydrodynamical model. In contrast to one-fluid hydrodynamics, it accounts for the finite stopping power of nuclear matter, i.e. for nonequilibrium e ects in the early stage of the reaction. Within this model, we study baryon dynamics in the BNL-AGS energy range. For the system Au+Au we find that kinetic equilibrium between projectile and target nucleons is established only after a time teq CM H 5 fm/c C 2RAu/³CM. Observables which are sensitive to the early stage of the collision (like e.g. nucleon flow) therefore di er considerably from those calculated in the one-fluid model.

We discuss the early evolution of ultrarelativistic heavy-ion collisions within a multi- fluid dynamical model. In particular, we show that due to the finite mean-free path of the particles compression shock waves are smeared out considerably as compared to the one-fluid limit. Also, the maximal energy density of the baryons is much lower. We discuss the time scale of kinetic equilibration of the baryons in the central region and its relevance for directed flow. Finally, thermal emission of direct photons from the fluid of produced particles is calculated within the three-fluid model and two other simple expansion models. It is shown that the transverse momentum and rapidity spectra of photons give clue to the cooling law and the early rapidity distribution of the photon source.

Abstract: We study transverse expansion and directed flow in Au(11AGeV)Au reactions within a multi-fluid dynamical model. Although we do not employ an equation of state (EoS) with a first order phase transition, we find a slow increase of the transverse velocities of the nucleons with time. A similar behaviour can be observed for the directed nucleon flow. This is due to non-equilibrium e ects which also lead to less and slower conversion of longitudinal into transverse momentum. We also show that the proton rapidity distribution at CERN energies, as calculated within this model, agrees well with the preliminary NA44-data.

We investigate the excitation function of quark-gluon plasma formation and of directed in-plane flow of nucleons in the energy range of the BNLAGS and for the Ekin Lab = 40A GeV Pb+Pb collisions performed recently at the CERN-SPS. We employ the three-fluid model with dynamical unification of kinetically equilibrated fluid elements. Within our model with first-order phase transition at high density, droplets of QGP coexisting with hadronic matter are produced already at BNL-AGS energies, Ekin Lab C 10A GeV. A substantial decrease of the isentropic velocity of sound, however, requires higher energies, Ekin Lab C 40A GeV. We show the e ect on the flow of nucleons in the reaction plane. According to our model calculations, kinematic requirements and EoS effects work hand-in-hand at Ekin Lab = 40A GeV to allow the observation of the dropping velocity of sound via an increase of the directed flow around midrapidity as compared to top BNL-AGS energy.

Noneequilibrium models (three-fluid hydrodynamics and UrQMD) use to discuss the uniqueness of often proposed experimental signatures for quark matter formation in relativistic heavy ion collisions. It is demonstrated that these two models - although they do treat the most interesting early phase of the collisions quite differently(thermalizing QGP vs. coherent color fields with virtual particles) - both yields a reasonable agreement with a large variety of the available heavy ion data.

Compactness is introduced as a new method to search for the onset of the quark matter transition in relativistic heavy ion collisions. That transition supposedly leads to stronger compression and higher compactness of the source in coordinate space. That effect could be observed via pion interferometry. We propose to measure the compactness of the source in the appropriate principal axis frame of the compactness tensor in coordinate space.

We study the time scale for pressure equilibration in heavy ion collisions at AGS energies within the three-fluid hydrodynamical model and a microscopic cascade model (UrQMD). We find that kinetic equilibrium is reached in both models after a time of 5 fm/c (center-of-mass time). Thus, observables which are sensitive to the early stage of the reaction differ considerably from the expectations within the instant thermalization scenario (one-fluid hydrodynamical model).

Entropy production in the compression stage of heavy ion collisions is discussed within three distinct macroscopic models (i.e. generalized RHTA, geometrical overlap model and three-fluid hydrodynamics). We find that within these models \sim 80% or more of the experimentally observed final-state entropy is created in the early stage. It is thus likely followed by a nearly isentropic expansion. We employ an equation of state with a first-order phase transition. For low net baryon density, the entropy density exhibits a jump at the phase boundary. However, the excitation function of the specific entropy per net baryon, S/A, does not reflect this jump. This is due to the fact that for final states (of the compression) in the mixed phase, the baryon density \rho_B increases with \sqrt{s}, but not the temperature T. Calculations within the three-fluid model show that a large fraction of the entropy is produced by nuclear shockwaves in the projectile and target. With increasing beam energy, this fraction of S/A decreases. At \sqrt{s}=20 AGeV it is on the order of the entropy of the newly produced particles around midrapidity. Hadron ratios are calculated for the entropy values produced initially at beam energies from 2 to 200 AGeV.