The pulse duration, and, more generally, the temporal intensity profile of free-electron laser (FEL) pulses, is of utmost importance for exploring the new perspectives offered by FELs; it is a nontrivial experimental parameter that needs to be characterized. We measured the pulse shape of an extreme ultraviolet externally seeded FEL operating in high-gain harmonic generation mode. Two different methods based on the cross-correlation of the FEL pulses with an external optical laser were used. The two methods, one capable of single-shot performance, may both be implemented as online diagnostics in FEL facilities. The measurements were carried out at the seeded FEL facility FERMI. The FEL temporal pulse characteristics were measured and studied in a range of FEL wavelengths and machine settings, and they were compared to the predictions of a theoretical model. The measurements allowed a direct observation of the pulse lengthening and splitting at saturation, in agreement with the proposed theory.
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