Hydrogen in the atmosphere of the evolved WN3 Wolf-Rayet star WR 3: defying an evolutionary paradigm?
WR 3 is the brightest very early-type WN star in the sky. Based on several years of time-resolved spectroscopy and precision photometry on various time-scales, we deduce that WR 3 is most likely a single, weak-lined star of type WN3ha (contrary to its current catalogue-type of WN3 + O4), with H lines occurring both in emission and absorption in its wind. This conclusion is confirmed and strengthened via detailed modelling of the spectrum of WR 3. Given the similarity of WR 3 with numerous H-rich WNE stars in the Large Magellanic Cloud and especially the Small Magellanic Cloud, and its location towards the metal-deficient exterior of the Galaxy, we conclude that rotationally induced meridional circulation probably led to the apparently unusual formation of this hot Galactic WN star with enhanced hydrogen. Although we cannot completely rule out the possibility of a binary with a low orbital inclination and/or long period, we regard this latter possibility as highly unlikely.