The absolute nitrogen (N) atom density in an electron-beam-excited plasma (EBEP) operating at an ultralow pressure has been investigated by vacuum ultraviolet absorption spectroscopy, employing a microdischarge hollow-cathode lamp. The measured N atom density was estimated to be around 6×1011 cm-3, and the dissociation fraction was 4.9% at a N2 pressure of 0.05 Pa, an electron-beam current of 10 A, and an electron-beam acceleration voltage of 120 V. The EBEP potentially enables us to control the electron density and electron energy independently with the electron-beam current and electron-beam acceleration voltages, respectively. It was found that N atom densities increased with increasing electron-beam current and electron acceleration voltage under low-pressure conditions. The EBEP shows great promise as a N atom source operating at an ultralow pressure. © 2000 American Institute of Physics.