Recent analyses of Mars Global Surveyor and Mars Odyssey data sets provide new insights into the geologic evolution of the eastern Hellas region of Mars, in particular, the role of volatiles. Here, we present results of our recent work and integrate these with previous studies by various investigators to provide a synthesis of the history of volatile-driven activity of the region. We utilize high-resolution images from the Mars Orbiter Camera and Thermal Emission Imaging System combined with Mars Orbiter Laser Altimeter digital elevation models and profiles to examine fluvial systems that dissect the circum-Hellas highlands, to characterize stages in the development of the Dao, Niger, Harmakhis, and Reull Valles canyon systems, and to evaluate evidence for ancient lakes in Hellas Planitia. The occurrence of valley networks, dissected highland crater rims, and crater interior deposits such as layered plateaus suggests widespread ancient degradation of the circum-Hellas highlands. Canyon development, which represents subsequent more localized activity, may have included an early fluvial phase followed by the collapse and sapping dominated stages that, along with recent wall erosion and floor resurfacing, produced the currently observed morphologies. The prominent role of collapse and sapping along the east rim of Hellas, along with the presence of numerous channels extending toward the basin and sequences of finely layered deposits along the basin rim, suggests a volatile-rich substrate across a broad depositional shelf. The east rim of the basin was an accumulation zone for atmospheric volatiles and/or the edge of volatile-rich deposits associated with the basin floor. This evidence combined with topographic data and cratered terrain preservation around the basin is consistent with a lacustrine period or periods in early Martian history. The style, magnitude, and spatial extent of volatile-driven activity in eastern Hellas have varied considerably with time, and these variations may represent a transition from a water-to an ice-dominated surface environment.
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