It is commonly believed that an energy transfer from thermal to suprathermal electrons (<several eV) greatly affects the energy budget of the ionosphere. However, observation of electron energy spectrum in this energy range is quite limited because of technical difficulties of measurement. We have developed an instrument to measure electron energy distribution from thermal to suprathermal energy continuously with high-energy resolution of about 0.15 eV. The measurement principle is based on the combination of a retarding potential analyzer with a channel electron multiplier (CEM) and the Druyvesteyn method, which derives energy distribution from the current-voltage characteristics. The capability of detecting plasma space potential enables absolute calibration of electron energy. The instrument with a small vacuum pump, which is required for the CEM to work in low-vacuum region, was first successfully tested by a sounding rocket S-310-37 in the ionospheric E region. The instrument is expected to provide new opportunities to measure energy distribution of thermal and non-thermal electrons in low-density plasma, where a Langmuir probe cannot measure electron temperature because of low plasma density.
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