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Analysis of visible and near-infrared (VNIR) imaging spectrometer data of the Syrtis Major volcanic complex on Mars shows spectrally distinct ejecta (SDE) around a subset of the regions impact craters. We explore the nature of this spectral difference with the intention of constraining the physical cause of the distinction and the significance of their near random spatial distribution. Crater counting performed by Baratoux et al. (2007) indicated that the craters with SDE are systematically younger than craters without SDE. Extensive crater counts of the craters with SDE show that they fit a consistent Hartmann (2005) isochron indicting that they represent temporally continuous population. This population was dated near 2 Ga, consistent with the counts of Baratoux et al. (2007). This modeled age corresponds to just after the Hesperian-Amazonian boundary,indicating that it may be related to a global event. We explore possible explanations for the lack of SDE around older craters, including atmospheric changes, significant but brief regional emplacement of materials, and volcanic activity. We conclude that the preferred explanation is that the SDE represent the true composition of the Syrtis Major volcanics and that surfaces older than 2 Ga were altered by interactions with water vapor or volcanic gases under different Hesperian climatic and atmospheric conditions leading to all craters formed after this alteration event to display SDE. Copyright 2010 by the American Geophysical Union.

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Journal of Geophysical Research E: Planets